What are the issues and challenges?

In Glasgow, tutors and practitioners have said it can be difficult to gather equalities information, particularly when working with particular groups learners.  The Glasgow Community Learning Strategy Partnership recently asked the WEA to explore some of the concerns raised by people working in community learning and development - and identify possible ways of overcoming these.

Particular groups

Gather equalities information can be potentially difficult when the learner or community member is unable to complete traditional formats (like forms) on their own.  In Glasgow, format is already an important factor for particular groups of learners:

  • Literacy and numeracy learners
  • People with visual and hearing impairments
  • ESOL learners
  • Any person who (for whatever reason) is unable to complete the equalities form themselves
  • Learners engaged in group provision

As well as format, the equality topics covered in the questions can sometimes be uncomfortable to discuss - for the learner, and for the tutor or practitioner.

The rest of this issue outlines the main areas of concern the WEA research identified.

Vulnerability and confidentiality - people from minority groups can feel exposed when asked about equalities issues.  And measuring equalities in small groups can make people feel they are easily identified.  Learners can also feel concerned about the idea of being tracked over time.

Disclosure - sometimes when a tutor speaks to a learner about equalities, they disclose personal information.  This can sometimes be difficult for the tutor to deal with.

The role of the CLD practitioner - some tutors and practitioners feel it is intrusive to ask learners about equalities.  The research suggests that understanding equalities and then discussing them are two separate challenges for practitioners.

Gatekeeping - although well intentioned, tutors or practitioners may limit the discussion or questions offered to some learners - perhaps because they are concerned they might not understand it or it might upset them.  This can result in particular groups actually being excluded from the equalities monitoring process.

Timing - when to gather information needs to be judged carefully, and might depend on the relationship between the learner and the practitioner.  It can also feel repetitive and a waste of time to gather the information too regularly.

Being flexible - over time, different approaches have developed in different organisations and teams across the city.  Although it is important the same questions are used consistently, different methods and approaches can be taken to gathering the information.

Dealing with several different equal opportunities monitoring systems - CLD practitioners might have to deliver different information for their own organisation, the partnership and different funders.

Language - people who speak little or no English can feel afraid to ask questions, and sometimes words and phrases do not have an equivalent in another language.

Some issues might need further work to help CLD practitioners in Glasgow overcome them.  The Glasgow Community Learning and Development Partnership is currently considering how best to do this.

Section 6 of this guide offers practical advice that will really help you overcome many of these issues.