Pooky Ponders: How can we create equality of opportunity for every student? | Haroon Bashir

Today’s question is “How can we create equality of opportunity for every student?” and I’m in conversation with Haroon Bashir who is the Equality Manager and Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead at Halesowen College.

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Show transcript:

Please note that the transcript is auto generated

Haroon Bashir: Uh, my name’s  Haroon and I work Halesowen college, and my role is equality merger on deputy DSL. So some of my role involves dealing with, um, equality aspect of making sure that students feel that they’re well-respected in college and also that they’re treated safely and life specialists within the site.

Guarding, I suppose, is online safety and also dealing with. 

Pooky Knightsmith: That’s quite a lot of hats you wear in there actually, 

Haroon Bashir: isn’t it? Yeah. I do a little bit of teaching as well, just to keep myself engaged in that, 

Pooky Knightsmith: just, just to make sure that that 25th hour of the day is, is fully utilized. So, um, how long have you done the, um, this role?

Haroon Bashir: Uh, the safeguarding role and this is my fourth year now. So my background is I was, I still teach accounts, so accounting sort of this subject I teach and it doesn’t work, but it does. And then I sort of had a really keen interest in the pastoral side of things where, um, I like working with students. I think they’re really interesting.

They’re not that they’re at that sort of crossroads in their life where they’re not sure what they want to do, and it’s just really helping and supporting them and you can make a really big difference in their lives. So I then sort of worked more in pastoral roles and then I worked with some curriculum.

And then I’ll come back and I’ve realized that I actually do like working with students and making that difference. And the safeguarding role makes me realize me, you get the opportunity to make that difference at a higher level. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And what does that, when you say making a difference? I mean, what, what does that kind of, what does that mean?

What does success look like for you there? I 

Haroon Bashir: suppose it’s, um, it’s all those things that I took for granted growing up, passer posts, um, aren’t things which other the norm with, with some of the students. So, um, I, I think that, um, you know, even just having a house to go back to and, uh, having family around me, I don’t, I think there are some students who unfortunately don’t have that and it’s giving them that, um, help having them to believe in themselves and raise their aspirations and, you know, make an impact in life.

And, you know, they can do it if they really, really try. And there’s nothing them. And I suppose, on there as a part, as a role model, because. No, I’ve worked hard for one where I do find it hard sometimes, you know, I’m not going to be your eighth grade student. Uh, I will work hard and I use that because I sometimes find it hard to understand difficult concepts or, you know, I’ll work and work and work at it and resilience.

And that, um, that determination really makes it ease, makes me sympathize and empathize with students and say, look, you can be done. So, um, yeah, so it’s, for me, it’s a success story. So we’re coming to the end of the year and I made a few phone calls last Friday where I spoke to some students and, um, they, they joined us about two years ago and then we were in a really difficult situation in their life.

Um, they, they were, um, in a hospital and they weren’t very well and, um, We supported college, we made sure that they were, um, they had regular meetings and had a safe place where they could go. And at the end of the year, there are people that are going to university. Wow. And, um, you know, and it’s just seeing that difference, then this’ll take you and seeing that change along that journey as well.

So where in the past, they might’ve self-harmed or done something really serious that actually, um, the other conduct fruit, a lot of people working together. So cottage Aaron’s external services together and making that difference


Pooky Knightsmith: rewarding, really 

Haroon Bashir: rewarding. Definitely. Um, and I think today it’s a shame for children because young people, because they grow up in such a fear driven environment. If you read the news, it’s about, well, got to pay that back in the future. There’s not any thumps. And, and it’s, it’s the same really, because.

You know, I don’t remember having that when I was growing up. And I just remember, you can do what you want and you can really, um, aspire to be what you, you want to be. Um, but that, but we’ve been, we had a bit more resilience and we, we just got on with it and that was the way things work. I think unfortunately, kids aren’t taught the young people.

Aren’t taught to be resilient as much, just giving them that confidence, okay. To make mistakes and that they will come back and as long as they learn from it. And again, it’s coming back to that safe space where they’re not going to be judged or feel threatened. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And why do you think that that’s sort of changed so much that, you know, you feel that the kids are less resilient now 

Haroon Bashir: I know that she plays a big part.

Um, so when, when I was growing up at eight, there was a bully at school or some kind of really bad type people or, um, I’d go home. And that was my safe space. And I wouldn’t see those people until sort of, you know, the next morning that you’ve got social media here and you’ve got mobile phones. It’s really hard to switch off because they’re completely resolved.

And if that could go on, you know, late nights and it’s a bit less sleep and then they’re going up all the next day and they carrying that with them all the time. So having that break and when I was growing up, my daily life was a lot easier, I think, just to recharge and to rethink we aligned. So it’s very, it’s a very much different climate.

I think we need to try and understand that when working with young people. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s maybe from what you said, not necessarily that they’re less resilient, but actually just that they’ve got more to do. 

Haroon Bashir: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s probably the wrong word because. Um, yeah, I think that they’re absorbing a lot on their shoulders and I think they just need to, I can change 

Pooky Knightsmith: students reacting to the kind of the current situation.

So we’re, you know, we’re recording this in the middle of, um, COVID, um, and in the context of the whole kind of black lives matter movement, 

Haroon Bashir: I think they want to be listened to, I think it’s talking to them. I think communication’s a key to a lot of this, really. Um, so what we’ve done at the colleges, we have a certain number of students that we look after, insight guardian role and driven the whole of the past hundred days.

We’ve made regular weekly contact with them and we sent emails and, um, different reminders on different things just to keep that continuity going and making sure that they’re okay. Um, and we shared because we’re going through that experience ourselves, you know, we’re sharing our experiences with them as well.

We’re both well, for me anyway, I feel that I’m on the same. I’m just slightly ahead of them. Um, and, um, it’s about, um, it’s about saying it’s okay to not be okay. Um, and we’re in it together and giving them that hope and that, you know, that light at the end of the tunnel, um, and supporting them really through it.

Um, and I think the same with black lives matter. I think there’s been a lot of press, you know, my own. Um, you know, there was a time where I was just watching, reading a lot on Twitter. It was just saying negativity coming through weekend. And again, I have these videos about that and I have to take a break from it.

I have to take a step back and think really isn’t good for you because it was bringing me down and I wasn’t in a position to be that person who may be, might be able to influence it and make it better. So I had to almost look at it from when I revise. That’s 

Pooky Knightsmith: interesting. And what made you feel that you weren’t in a position to influence it and make it better when you’re the quality manager in your college?

Haroon Bashir: mean, I think it felt pretty emotional than I was because I kept it. It’s a thing on social media, which is called echo chambers, where people are occurring, the same views that you’ve got all the time and he gets people riled up, whether it’s something, racism or being assembled Brexit. And it’s about trying to get that balance because then you start to see that thing that everybody’s saying, and it’s not like that there are so many good things going on in life.

And I think if you’re constantly fed with that, it does make, it does bring you down and it’s almost like have emotions fine, but then your brain needs to take over your need to start thinking about like, we’re going to have students who are going to come here in September and August, that kind of experience issues with COVID and I’ve been in education for a long time.

That experienced a lot of, um, injustice, um, and how can we make this a better and safer place for them? So it’s sort of, I suppose don’t use the word up, but I think I have how you can start leading people through this, but in order to that, you need to make sure that you’re in a good, um, I’m very careful now about how many hours or how many minutes I’m sort of looking on social media, because sometimes it’s, 

Pooky Knightsmith: is that something that you kind of shared with your students in terms of how you’ve managed that for yourself?

Haroon Bashir: Definitely. Yeah. And stuff as well. Cause I’ve delivered some training on online safety and I’ve said that, you know, it does have an impact and, um, it’s, I suppose it’s balanced, isn’t it. And making sure that you’ve got the information and emotions good, but not too much of it. Cause then it can be an overload.

And when you are, when you’re home all the time and. You can’t discuss it with, you know, you can lead to you making assumptions about what people are like. Um, um, and the world is a horrible place. So one of the things we tried to do was, um, I think it was an organization called switch promotions. Um, they basically had during the month of June, um, it was almost like a gratitude gratitude month, but every day you would do something different and it would be for somebody else.

And it was there to sort of improve your mental health. Um, so it was really quite powerful. And we said that with the students, that is one of the, um, emails that we would send out to them and say, what have you tried this? Or have you tried that? And to do something different would help them grow a little bit more.

And you know, the other things that I did, which were different, 

Pooky Knightsmith: what kind of 

Haroon Bashir: things just going out and doing gardening and just planting seeds and something. Yeah, then the Lord before one of the agents, but, you know, giving things up, you know, um, you know, where I think, you know, it’s quite, it’s quite, yeah, nice.

And it’s very tapped out when you’re sort of just when you haven’t seen sort of soil and just planting seeds and then go back and wait for them to grow, you know, and even reading, I’m not a big reader at all. Read more, um, as an entertainment, as an enjoyment thing and a release, and even doing this, my comfort zone, big fun by doing this with you.

Um, so I’ve learned that I’ve got, if I’ve got to grow and develop and you know, I’ve got to lead by example, Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: It, it sounds like you think, um, quite a lot about how you are a role model clearly to the young people that you work with and, um, you position yourself quite carefully in terms of what you’re trying to convey through your actions, as well as through your words.

Is that fair? 

Haroon Bashir: Definitely. I guess. Yeah, because I think being from a minority background, I know how difficult it is when I became a manager. There weren’t many managers around and it’s about, you know, not, um, not limiting yourself and making sure that, you know, what you do, you, you, it’s almost like, um, you’ve got to, you’ve got to see what you want.

You’ve got to be what you want other people to see. Does that make sense? You know, you want to see what you want other people to be, I suppose. So you want to, you know, you’re in that position and people can see you and say, Oh yeah, in contribute. So,

um, I think it’s important for people to see you for who you are. So for example, my, my faith is that I’m Muslim and I, you know, ID don’t prevent for some people that shouldn’t carbonate on their truck to say these people don’t represent my faith on trying to be a positive role model and a sales manager for my faith and where I’m showing what it’s really about.

And, um, I want people to go away and think, well, hold on a minute, if this is happening by these people that are saying this, I never really is that what’s going on. And it’s sort of like almost just communicates what the narrow to this. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Do you have to think carefully about taking on that agenda? Or was that something that you absolutely knew you wanted to be part of?


Haroon Bashir: Oh, freely. I want to part a bit it’s by looking at the best way of getting that message across and I had to do it my way, I suppose, things that I’ve dealt with and. I’ll just let some sessions on unconscious bias. Took me about six months to get the total right, and to use the right name of which, because the majority of the staff that I’ve spoken to are white and there are things in there which could be sensitive for them, but I don’t want to make it just a white issue.

It’s unconscious biases, all of us and unconscious biases. So it’s really thinking about the way that you’re thinking and while you’re making a decision. So 95% of what we think about is automatic programs. And it’s a case of a, where does that come from? A 5% is thinking just loving down. So those that 95% will come back from our own personal experiences.

What we’ve read in the media and what we see on TV. And it’s about stopping and thinking about the other person. So, and for that to happen, we need to slow down and really look at the other person point of view. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And how did you find the right tone 

Haroon Bashir: then?

I think I used quite a few videos that I made sure that the big, I, I didn’t, uh, because we’ve had to do it on sort of remotely. Um, I’ve used quite a few videos, which I’ve asked people to come forward to discuss. And I’d like to think that people that are in college think that I’m balanced and look good.

I can take you to speak to me, which I do anyway. And it’s building on what we do at college already with inclusion. So I’ve used the college I’ve used, um, sort of, I would say generic terms and then sort of delved a bit deeper and didn’t come back home. But the examples I’ve given aren’t just about black and white, just about male or female, it’s about sexuality.

It’s about different religions, so people can relate to different aspects of it. Yeah. So, um, yeah, so it’s very important that I have that interaction and there has been sessions where, um, I’ve spoken to staff at the end and they say, well, I don’t agree with this particular aspect. And we’ve had a discussion and it’s educational and I’ve got been emotional.

It’s all about

voicing their concern and we can have that discussion. Um, and you know, that conversation for me, hasn’t finished. It’s something that will carry on in the future. Um, and I mentioned, um, I don’t know if you saw the, um, the channel four program at the school that tried to end racism. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I’ve not seen the program, but I’ve, I’ve read about it.


Haroon Bashir: It’s really helpful. It’s very, very interesting because one of the they question and they discuss, um, issues with the year seven group from our school. And I think it’s insightful and they split them up. Um, well, the thing, well, if you speak to them, it’s not causing, but they’re spitting out and then they’re bringing them back together.

So they split them by 

Pooky Knightsmith: ethnicity 

Haroon Bashir: or ethnicity. So you had, okay. You, the white students in one group, and then you had the non white students in the other. And then as the weeks went on. Cause I think it was a number of weeks. Um, the school program was on full. Um, they then split up the non white group into Asian and then black and even within those groups there’s differences.

So, um, it was really interesting. And I think one of the questions is that we don’t, we’re not aware of, um, I remember catching LG about an LGBT talk and there was a question that was posed to the audience. At what age did you realize that you were heterosexual? Those people who have got an LG from an LGP T background at a young age or a certain age.

And then I think realized that they were different. And I think that that was in my mind stuck for a while, actually  medical background. And when I asked him about what age did you know that you were blind? If that will happen to have always been like that. But for me, when, from a young age of about eight, I realized that I was different and people would, some people would treat me differently.

Whereas when I was at school, I was treated differently to on-site school. And it was really interesting because then you’re able to actually share your experiences and open the door. But I think people don’t, I think it’s chicken and egg syndrome too scared to talk about race because they don’t want to offend, but you just have to preempt yourself and say, well, look, I don’t want to offend because the question.

I know, it’s, you know, I learned a lot about, um, people that have transitioned from female to male over the last sort of four or five years. And I’ve been, you know, an obviously it’s the same approach and the countries I should question about at least, and it’s open, it’s being open about how you, um, what, what you’re not sure about really, and not do it in an offensive manner and just ask them nicely.

And you know, I’ve not had any negative responses back from people when I’ve asked questions by I’m quite inquisitive. I do, I love cultures, different cultures at times, and I find it really fascinating. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Do you think that’s because, you know, you had that, you said you had that sense from about the age of eight that you, you were, you know, different than your peers or is it just driven by something deeper or, 

Haroon Bashir: yeah.

I don’t know. I just find it interesting. I liked differences, I think because I’m different. I think I appreciate the differences and I try to look the common commonality between different people as well. So, um, you know, for me, my faith is quite important to learn through the people face important, whether they’re Christian Muslims, two days in the Hindu seats, and I try to make that connection with people.

So I think for me, it’s about making connections and going deeper than just what’s on the outside. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And what would you think are the questions that we should be asking? I know when we spoke, um, a few days ago prior to this, then we were having, it was really interesting for me hearing a little bit about, you know, um, how you pray and, um, the kind of the feelings associated with that.

And, you know, and I found myself thinking, I I’m, I feel a bit shamed. I don’t know more about this already. I’ve got a lot of Muslim friends, but I’ve never thought to ask, you know, what’s it like getting up at three in the morning to pray. And I just, what are the things that you think we should be asking?

What are the conversations we should be having to have better awareness of each other? 

Haroon Bashir: A good question. Um, it’s really hard. I think, um, I think compensation just, you know, a lot of our lives are very, very similar, but there’s certain parts where we just dedicated to the act of worship, but I think it goes both ways.

I think it’s asking people about their faith and also people just, you know, asking about yours. No. So for example, when it’s from Italian, I’m fasting, I let people know because sometimes my press might feel a bit tired and I feel a bit weak. Um, people then ask questions. So I suppose I opened the door for that.

Um, but I think for the majority of time where, when people come to me is when there’s been an issue in the workplace, it’s very close, actually almost know the discussion. So it’s, I’ve been, it’s more of a go-to thing then sort of, or tell me about this. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I love the idea though, that you are the you’re the Muslim, you can represent the views of 

Haroon Bashir: millions.

Pooky Knightsmith: Just trying to think. I can’t imagine someone coming to me and go you’re white. I 

Haroon Bashir: mean it’s yeah. I think it’s that comfortability. I’ve been at the college here for, this is my 18th year, so people know who I am. They seen. And, you know, um, I suppose know, they get in with me I suppose. And, um, I, you know, I’ll never, you know, somebody asks me a question.

I’ll always be very honest with them, but I won’t make them feel small. And I think it’s just having that approach. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I think that’s important even the 18 years. 

Haroon Bashir: Wow. 22nd year of education. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Wow. I guess you like it then? 

Haroon Bashir: Yeah, I’ve done a lot of different roles, so I’ve been very fortunate and I’m very privileged, um, to, you know, I came in as a lecturer and then, um, and I did that for three or four years, and then I moved into a pastoral lead for another four years.

And then I was asked to do, um, the head of division and work with staff again out of the three years. Um, and then I went back to the PA role of quality and pastoral role, and then I’ve gone to safeguarding. So every sort of three to four years, it’s sort of changed. So, um, and it’s nice because it’s all going into the same festival and all the skills and everything that I’ve learned, um, to share with people.

And it’s made me hopefully a more rounded person as well. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And I guess the fact you’ve stayed that that time indicates it’s somewhere where you feel kind of, you know, you enjoy being there. You feel it’s a good environment where you can thrive. And 

Haroon Bashir: I think, um, students and staff make it, um, I think the students are amazing.

I think, you know, especially at that age where they are at that crossroads where they’re going from school to real life. And, um, so it’s, it’s quite nice because I get to see students, um, and they look very, very different. You know, it makes me feel really old, but. They’ll see themselves like insane

they look so different because they come to college with a very sort of, um, young baby face and very useful them. And they’re real men with kids or, you know, it’s very, very different. Um, and it’s nice. It’s nice to see that. And, um, but yeah, I think, you know, the staff are very good as well. I think, um, I’m not promoted.

I’m not, you know, um, you know, I think they’re very much looking some stuff to work so hard. They’re very open. They’re very honest and it’s like a little family. Um, and you know, if I wasn’t happy, you know, so, um, you know, I think the students that we get, we get a really nice mix of students as well. You know, it’s, it’s real, like it’s a true representation of real life.

Tell me a 

Pooky Knightsmith: bit more about the kind of college and, and how big it is and what kind of stuff you specialize in and what kind of students you’re drawing on? 

Haroon Bashir: Um, we have four and a half thousand students, so 16 predominantly an Effie college, but we’ve mainly mainly focus on 16 to 19 year olds, but we have 14 to 16 year olds and we have some adult courses like access courses and part-time degree courses as well.

Um, and we have full-time degree courses. So, um, but the, the main of books, if you like is to 19 year olds and they come from about 200 different schools in the area. So we have coaches that come to college and, um, got about 30 different coach routes. It happened before the lockdown and, um, so they come from all, you know, from.

Well, I’m in the middle of Birmingham and more of Hampton. So, um, we’ve got it’s in Birmingham from Sandwell from thirdly. I’m not sure how to make it Oh. With the area, uh, for most, uh, from satisfaction. And it’s a nice mix. And because it’s not, it’s, there’s no loyalty to one particular school. There’s no sort of, Oh, this is our territory.

Everybody comes in. And so lots, little buddies, if you like in the first few days. And then they settle in really well. Or the end of the day, they’re sort of exchanging mobile numbers and Snapchat addresses and Instagram. Um, they then sort of just develop, you know, people respect each other and you know, this is the age where they can be themselves, so they can wear whatever religious, where they want.

They can wear makeup that you wear the dresses. If they’re transitioning, you know, they’re very, very comfortable to be who they are. And it’s very central to what we do at the college. So 

Pooky Knightsmith: you create a really safe environment for your learners. Definitely. Do you think 

Haroon Bashir: there 

Pooky Knightsmith: are any sort of issues with that?

Because if your learners, I mean, this, it sounds like a wonderful environment, but what happens when they leave? I mean, is this preparing them for the 

Haroon Bashir: real world? The majority of our students, I would say are here for two years. So in year one, it’s just getting them to 15 into sort of part of the adult world where we still have parental contact.

And, um, so don’t get away from the parents. But then in the second half of the year, that’s when we then prepare them for university employment apprenticeships, um, And that’s when they need to start to, they do grow themselves. Um, you know, they’re learning to drive, they’re earning money and naturally it happens, but we do prepare them for the real world.

And we do that from the start of sort of, you feel like you’re 13 and seven will have got to their planning if you’d like for they’re actually quite early on. And that works really well because then they’re going to college because they know what grades, they need to get universities and apprenticeships.

And, um, even for learners, who’ve got learning difficulties and special education needs. Um, we have a really good careers departments and we’ve got links with connections and link come in and help. They have physician as well. For me, I, you know, one of the things I really really make sure happens is that the students that come us do not leave and have nowhere to go, but to have something and they’ve got to be doing, because I wouldn’t want that for my own children.

No, I’m not central, really. Um, how I view the young people at home 

Pooky Knightsmith: that you’re trying to hurt, help everybody kind of reached that kind of potential and make sure that they’re making some good next

Haroon Bashir: steps. Definitely. And sometimes they won’t listen to you. They won’t, you know, I’ve seen that, Hey levels is the only way I want to do my levels.

And I’m saying, please trust me, do this course in a business, vocational course, your grades are borderline, you weren’t so strong with your exams and we’ll get to that in two years time and suddenly, and they progressed on to university tendon really, really well. So unfortunately, I’ve had to do an eight year of a levels.

They didn’t make it didn’t pass the first year. So that then goes to the vocational alternatives. But yeah, definitely. And it’s just treating them like young adults. So you can’t have that conversation with them. Really? My approach is I treat them like adults, Katie mode that I have to go to. I don’t mind.

Um, so it’s, um, you know, they are, you know, they are nice, they are nice kids and it’s nice because you don’t have that emotional involvement with them. So you, you know, and they don’t have that emotional involvement with me. So they listen to you a little bit more and, you know, 

Pooky Knightsmith: and do you think that because they come into you at this kind of point in their academic career, if you like in you don’t, you know, you, haven’t kind of watched them grow up to this point that you’re able to guide them in a different way than if they were to stay on six form, for example.

Haroon Bashir: Um, I think it’s got its pros and cons. I think there’s, some people are very comfortable with the school setup and they prefer just to carry on with the six or nine. It’s just an extension of school. And some people talk the approach, but it’s not broken why change or fix it. Um, but, but I think at college I’m thinking that step your spine into the real world in real life.

Um, I think it’s calling your teachers by their first name now, and you’re making your own way to colleagues in the pro-choice or you make your own way back and then you’ll be in a bit more responsible in its thinking.

Pooky Knightsmith: And what are the things, do you think that for your students, when you’re saying you want that kind of equality of opportunity, that all of your students, you’re hoping that they’re going to have good places to go after, um, after the college, are there things that kind of typically stand in the way, like what, the kind of barriers that you have to help students overcome that?

Haroon Bashir: think we’ve got some students who’ve, who’ve never been to his parents have they’ve been to university and they’re not sure the parents don’t get it. And it’s about the education side of it and explained to them that, you know, you will have to take care of environment, but you don’t pay it back until.

Because, um, you know, you, weren’t a sentimental Lillian, cause I only hear half of it. They only do it when my center or towards to come university, but all this to come out with all this debt that I’ve got to pay and I think they’ve got to pay straight away. So I think it’s education and it’s raising the aspirations as well.

And also just investing in the young people as well. Um, and being very, you know, in a little bit of tough love and be honest with them when they are making mistakes and telling them that, um, you know, you can do this, but you might need to focus on that, uh, reducing this or you need to, you know, need to back all the people I called.

You need to be just be careful how you speak to people. Cause you, you’re very sensitive as people speak to you, but you’re not sensitive people or you speak to people. Um, it’s tough love as well. So it’s coming from a good place, but it’s just being very honest and open with them and consistency. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And do most of your students go to university or a lot of them go into the workplace or.

Haroon Bashir: Good question. Since I started, started got enrolled, I’ve sort of had less involvement in the area, but I would say it’s probably about 65% to uni 35% of apprenticeships, because I think friendships have improved a lot over a period of time. And universities have got more expensive as well. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Is that a big factor in the decisions that your young people are making the kind of the cost of that higher education?

Haroon Bashir: I think it’s initially with parents, cause I don’t want them to have that debt, but once you realize when they look at what the good payment plan is and how much it sort of will cost and that they’ve got to learn it too. I think it’s, I think it’s FaceTime style and it’s only a minimum of once a month.

They don’t mind it then when it’s broken down like that. But when they have it’s a whole note, some, I think it does have an impact. So for example, my background is teacher cans. I would say to young people, it’s probably better for you to get a position in accounting or training program because you’ve got that alongside the theory.

Whereas sometimes at university, it’s just all theory theory theory, and then they leave and they don’t really know what it’s talking about. And there are some really amazing training schemes where they pay a decent salary. They pay you to become a qualified candidate. Um, I don’t have to, so it depends what set to the ingredient, what movements 

Pooky Knightsmith: and do you have to, you know, if you’re supporting students to go into, um, sort of apprenticeships, then do you have to work quite carefully to kind of match them with the right work environment?

And I mean, that must be more complicated in some ways than university. 

Haroon Bashir: Definitely. We’ve got an apprenticeship team so that because I would call it, you’re split up into different vocational areas. They’ve got an idea. So the apprenticeships will naturally lend themselves to different vocational areas.

So what we then do is we then put them in touch with the careers team and the apprenticeship team. Um, and then they’re able to think we have outside speakers, guest speakers coming in as well. Uh, and we have careers fairs where we get everybody in one place at one time from different sets. So even areas where people working in a bank, for example, they might not initially thought about that and they could sort of, um, be more drawn towards that.

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. So you’re trying to open out those, those opportunities for them. Yeah. What do you do, um, in terms of the kind of broader education of your students? Cause it sounds like, um, you’ve got quite a role there in terms of educating both staff and maybe students in terms of preparing them for life and to be, you know, good citizens and, and stuff.

I’d love to hear a little bit about 

Haroon Bashir: that. Um, well we’ve got your total program and part of it’s by their own progress, but it’s also about developing their understanding about being safe, online and how to treat other people look at quality and differences. Um, okay. Portability skills and making them a more rounded person.

So one of the projects, um, I’ve, I’ve been on a succumbent for two days a week, uh, from Christmas full-time, um, is called mentors in violence prevention. And that was with the West Midlands police. And essentially it’s a pilot program where students will be trained up to deliver scenario. They’d be given a scenario, um, about your place in the city.

You, you go to a party, one of your friends is being tracked to the bedroom by another person, what you do. And it’s about being a good citizen. So they have that discussion in the class and they talk about what they’re trying to forties. They talk about what their actions would be and, um, and what organizations could potentially help as well.

So it’s one of the programs that we’re looking at running, hopefully within the next sort of 12 months. Well, six months, really that situation is. Well, we’re getting students to lead sessions where the students will really help improve, improve their employability. They want to go into teaching. If they want to go into public service sector already.

Yes. Then it really helps give them that skill and they can put that on their CV. And 

Pooky Knightsmith: presumably the actual stuff itself is it’s important stuff for them to learn. Do you think they learn it better from each other when there is? 

Haroon Bashir: Well, the students play actually a very important role in promoting the college.

So we have student ambassadors, we have equality ambassadors. We’ve got Chris Lasseter’s and well-being officers. And we have students on the interview panel when we were pointing stuff. Um, we’ve got student union and the student voice, I even on open tastes as well. We use students and, you know, young people are very perceptive.

The answer that we come up with, even though we’ve got whipped and all those years of teaching and training, they come up with exactly the same. We’ve had 11 years of it. And we don’t realize that when they come to college, typically since the age of five and then know, you know, those teachers who, you know, aren’t good in those fields, you know, who are trying, you know, who would struggle.

Um, so I was just thinking about, you know, I remember my daughter went to university for the open day. We went straight to the doctors and the professors find out about the course. She went straight to the students and the students sold it to her because. No, they probably would say the same thing, but the speed they’re speaking at the same sort of level.

Yeah. And it’s, um, you know, they cut to the chase really quickly as well. And if, you know, a young person is saying that then 

Pooky Knightsmith: yeah, absolutely. They can often find the, uh, the, the issues quickly. If something’s not going to work, they’re often able to find those issues fast. Aren’t they, do you find it easy to kind of engage with student voice in a meaningful way?

Or is that something you’ve had to really actively work?

Haroon Bashir: So in terms of student feedback, in terms of what might works 

Pooky Knightsmith: well, in terms of, you said you’ve got these, um, Buster, so like for example, your equality, um, and busters, like w w what do they do and how do you make that more than a kind of tokenistic? 

Haroon Bashir: So we’ve got an equality and diversity forum and students, the quality ambassadors will be invited to those meetings.

And they’ll also help us plan what events we want to have during the course of the year. So they’ve got a very active role within that. So, um, because, you know, we’re all getting older and we don’t know what young person wants, and they might think, you know, actually we need to do something on self-harm or we need to do some for mental health, and this would be a really good way to capture that.

So it’s about using them to make it as effective and have a greater impact as possible. So if I was to give you an example with Cynthia, um, everything’s come out about backlog’s motto as being students are college and saying, well, I’m coming to your college in September. What are you doing to make it a more inclusive college?

So that’s put the responsibility back on to the college and the college you’ve issued a statement saying that we support black lives matter and we will support, you know, active anti-fascism agenda and we’re able to support you pay and you know, your voice is equal with everybody else. Um, and there’s another, there’s another student who called he was an existing students.

Um, she wrote a very powerful email to us, uh, really holding the college to account. So, um, I contacted her and I said, well, what would you like to do? Because we’ve got to have all the youngsters, we want to do it. We want to make the change. So she goes, well, I think we should do something in tutorial. Okay, great.

Could you do a quiz and she’s done a quiz and it’s quite a on video, but, um, so I said to them, I did a PowerPoint presentation just to educate people, um, alongside it. So hopefully, you know, she’s going to be doing that over the summer and then we can use her tutorial to, um, educate staff and students, to be honest with me.

So it’s about giving them that platform so they can feel that their voice is heard. Their voice is being heard. And we all taking it seriously because right. You, people do have equality and diversity policies. I’m just as good as the retinol. And, but equally I think in the college, we need to make sure that we are in a way we shall constitute role models in each of the curriculum areas.

Certainly some areas are underrepresented by females or by a different group. We need to show those images and make sure, but actually, you know, I can’t become that. And, um, you know, you asked me about role models and I can see myself as being a role model, trying to think it can be that if you can see it and you can become it, that’s how young people generally become.

And there are loads of really amazing role models that we need to promote to the college in difference. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Did you have any of those role models when you were growing up? 

Haroon Bashir: Awesome. I couldn’t name you one in terms of the coals, but. I, I do a lot of self-reflection I suppose. So I always try to look at how I can improve myself and where I’ve gone wrong.

I have quite a range of different people who I thought

I can go and speak to. So I sort of find my own, but I didn’t find anybody who was from the same background as me and my family work, colleagues who have shared, we shared similar experiences and we’ve, you know, we’ve gone through that journey together. Yeah. But not when I was younger. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So if you didn’t, you know, as you said before, if you can see it, you can aspire to it and do it.

But if you didn’t have those role models there, then what gave you the, even the idea to go and do what you’re doing? You know, how did you work out? What path to go down? Um, 

Haroon Bashir: well, parts of it, I suppose, was. When growing up, I think a lot of us, um, the post office, there was never really that, you know, uh, yeah, he came in this country in the sixties and the post office only retired in 1996.

Um, and so he’s personally very different, but there was very little, um, I suppose, input in terms of being a role model in the house and his job was just fine. And I understand that and I respect him wholly for that. I just wanted to make sure that we leave when it was my turn to get married and that I would have, um, I would pay differently I suppose, and that drew me to education.

So I would be able to have the holidays the same as the kids and my kids, and then spend time investing in them. Yeah. So I suppose, um, by, by Iris along the way, I remember those at school. I will tell if it’s just a burning and a single not, but when I got to school, people have these little books where they sign and they write notes and, um, somebody wrote something to me about me and he goes, don’t worry.

Okay. I have one day. And I don’t know if that was supposed to be like, you know, keep persisting and you’ll get there, or if it’s supposed to be negative. But I remembered that. And I don’t know, I think it’s, I’ve had quite a few setbacks and I’ve, you know, um, in my life. So, you know, I went to college scene and then I worked in a bakery and I took a year.

Right. And then I realized I’ve had light bulb moments, I suppose, where I think, you know, I could do more with my life and I want to make a difference. And I suppose I’ve been quite blessed with the role that occurred at the college because allowed me to carve out my own role. And because I am different, I suppose it lends itself to equality and people come to me or I think it actually her, and you’ve got quite good platform here.

You can make a difference to it. So I suppose it’s evolved more than anything, but then there’s being sort of opportunities, which are sort of ceased to sort of catch up a little early, but I’ve had to do a card for him because I did that alongside other things as well. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. It sounds like you have had to, to yeah.

As you say, kind of work hard and kind of carve your own path, but at the same time, the idea that you’re, then that, that role model to the, to the kids, as well as sort of aspiring to an agenda, I think is really brilliant. Is that, do you have kind of any kind of unfinished business, if you’ve got stuff that you really want to change or things you want to influence.

Haroon Bashir: I think there’s always things that I going to change. I think I just, I want Pete, there’s a wonderful video on YouTube called labels. Um, and it’s by Prince EA, LLC. Um, and it’s about dropping labels with the same people for who they are, and I’d love to aspire to, but just people to see people in terms of who they are and not what shallow, wherever, what could or Jen.

So I suppose I’d probably just keep carrying on and trying to do and challenge myself and push myself. So if I feel that I’m judging people, I need to make sure that I’m not doing that. So, um, I can’t be fake about what I do. So I suppose it’s just being true to myself and, um, yeah, just trying to just see people for who they are, because that’s how I want people to see me.

You’re quite 

Pooky Knightsmith: harsh critic of yourself. Aren’t you?

It’s one of the things that made me most want to talk to you is when you said to me, I don’t know why you want to talk to me. I’m not very interesting. And I thought, ah, there’s someone I would like to interview. 

Haroon Bashir: I think 

Pooky Knightsmith: I estimated by, um, your well by you really? I like, I love people. I find people really interesting and bluntly.

I am surrounded by amazing people who are amazing in all sorts of different ways, but sometimes the ones who tell me they’re amazing are the less interesting ones. And it’s the people who are more quietly getting on with it and actually just making a difference to people’s lives every day. They’re the ones who really interest me.

And that’s the thing, the idea that you’re working in this massive college and you’re there as a role model for your ethnicity and your faith, and you’re trying to enable your students to aspire to, you know, different things than they might otherwise have done. I mean, that, it just fascinates me. And, um, I think it’s a really, a really brilliant way to spend your life.

Um, yeah, 

Haroon Bashir: definitely. I’m very privileged, really fortunate. And, um, I had the college opportunity, but I also put the effort in myself to, in my show that, you know, you know, I think, I think with, with everything going on with the black lives matter, I think it’s, you know, Um, it’s about educating people and it’s about starting that new chapter really, and making sure that we take it a step further forward and we make it a greater difference.

Pooky Knightsmith: How’s the black lives matter stuff kind of made you reflect on, um, we’re doing this pretty well compared to most people, or has it made you kind of step back and go, actually, we’ve got a lot of work to do here. I mean, how has it landed with you? 

Haroon Bashir: It’s scary because we’ve never done anything like this before.

So, and some people are warming to some people don’t need it. Some people say, well, it’s all lives matter. And it’s really interesting the different responses. Um, so I think it’s some of it’s. I think that it’s about education and it’s about being transparent. So one of the things I’m doing within the training, unconscious bias is talking about what we did at the college.

And because we do different to folks on staff, it’s actually saying, well, we’re doing this. You can be an advocate with us. It’s not us and them. And if you want to have a group, then you can set that group of yourself as well. So it’s about, you know, saying that here, go look, there’s, let’s go for it. Let’s do it.

But what I don’t want it to be is a group where people fit. They’ve got special treatment. It’s about equity for me, not, you know, um, favors to some, it’s just being an in thing. I think the biggest worry for me in terms of black lives matter is that it’s gotta be long-term. You know, I remember was it Rodney King in the nineties where he got beat up by the LA police and died, you know, and then 30 or 40 years later, we were going through the same thing again with somebody else with George Floyd.

And it’s about learning from it and start to strategize. And we, you know, make it part of the, the structure, if you like. So, you know, to be inclusive, you know, we should welcome diversity. And we should celebrate that because if a college is truly, truly an organization Institute, it’s really inclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked for different people because you know, that college would, that organization should, um, naturally supports and listen to those voices.

Anyway, does that make sense? So, well, we 

Pooky Knightsmith: don’t, we don’t try and make everyone the same, rather we say, Hey, do you know what? We’re all different and that’s okay. 

Haroon Bashir: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think people look at quality mixed up with equity in the black lives matter. Isn’t about, you know, well, you’ve got the,  mostly nice bachelor women.

It’s about equity and there’s a lot of catching up for, I feel that, um, you know, black people have been sort of mistreated and, um, you know, um, um, being treated unfairly. And, you know, they just want the same as everybody else, but there’s a bigger distance to travel. Um, and I don’t like, this is just me personally.

I use the word white privilege because I don’t think it helps at all. I think privilege is more important as part of my life, which I’m very privileged and it’s not even linked with color. And there’s certainly, you know, when you say to somebody who’s not got a job and they’re white, that you’ve got white privilege, they don’t get it.

There’s parts of people’s lives where they’re, they’re be privileged. You know, there’s just talk about privilege. You know, I think, unfortunately what worries me about that whole black lives matter is that we might get distracted from what the real issues are. And these, these are about being, um, by equity, not equality.

And I will say to staff and students, you know, I treat my kids equally, but  my son. He sat back. I’m thinking of both exactly the same way. So I need to look at the equity in terms of what’s going to get through with both parties. Um, so it does worry me about sort of things might get hijacked and people might use some in the, um, in the wrong context and people using it for their own agenda as well.

So I’m worried about the EDL use and get it for their own agenda. And I worry about people who, you know, are very like anti-police or MTY might be using it for their agenda. And, um, you know, I think, you know, we need to show our actions may speak louder than words. And 

Pooky Knightsmith: how do we, I mean, what’s your role in that, in your, you know, your, your, both in your personal life and also in your, in your job at work?

I mean, how do you help this message to land how we want it to, and to stick with this for the long term? I think 

Haroon Bashir: we talk about it. I think people are very uncomfortable to talk about race and about offending the wrong thing. Oh no. Let’s say that it’s a closed subject. And I think, you know, have that platform where people can talk about it.

It’s okay to disagree. I think we want everybody to agree with them. You know, we don’t need to, we can have our own views, but it’s about seeing the person and getting on with each other. And, you know, you might disagree with certain things, but it does. I’m not sure I’m personal view, but it doesn’t mean that you treat them an equally.

So, but what I’d like to see really small. So chosen systems in place, which work hand in hand with organizations to make sure that, you know, you’ve got, I suppose, the employers and the employees working together thinking, right. You know, we want to tackle this and we’re going to work together and we’re going to listen and we’re going to try and change.

And we want to tap into the knowledge and your expertise, but that does involve a massive change in mindset. 

Pooky Knightsmith: How could that even 

Haroon Bashir: happen, baby steps, baby steps, and start to show the value. And then slowly, you know, actually, you know, this is quite, and then we get some feedback here and our behavior, for example, our college has improved, or

if you’ve got all of these things coming together, I think they will be done overnight. Um, and I think it’s a long term. Outfit. And even, you know, when I’ve retired, it’s still going to be there when people take it on and it becomes part. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Absolutely. And what do you think, you know, in terms of there’s some big stuff in there and some of those are, you know, projects of a lifetime or more, but in terms of, you know, people listening, if they want to do something right away, that makes a difference in their day-to-day life, whether that’s in their work or their personal lives, what, what should they do?

What could they do? 

Haroon Bashir: I say, seek from the other person’s viewpoint? Well, two things really, I think stop and think before you make a judgment about somebody and just so you know, I’m questioning. If you’re, if you’re, if you’ve got a third plus fundamental question, each other as well, when you see them behaving in a certain way.

So for example, if you’re in a family column and there’s somebody who’s from a different background is coming up can quick bucket, or you don’t. Discuss why, why you’re doing that and, you know, dig a little bit deeper and start to see, you can ask questions if you’re not sure about something, ask, because suddenly you’ve got people from the area you’ve got Tony Robbins’ son, even sort of note your fraud, where people are hijacking it and saying, well, you can’t say this is not politically correct.

Talk about it, discuss it, be open about it if you’re not sure if it’s not going to be honest and open about it. So yeah, I think it’s about, so it’s about recognizing, thinking for yourself, stop and thinking and look at it from the other person’s viewpoint as well. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yep. It’d be curious. Yeah. It seems like every, everybody who I talk to, I’ve talked to people on a whole range of different topics and be curious, just seems to be a theme that runs throughout, but 

Haroon Bashir: because we’re not, I think people want us to be programmed, to think in a certain way, in a certain way.

And I think that creativity of being curious, you know, um, it’s really, it’s a really interesting thread you were interested in. You were curious about me on curious about other people about how they, they live their lives. That’s what I like equality and diversity a lot. Yeah. And I was, you know, I always ask questions and I get told off by my family because sometimes I ask the wrong questions or, but I’m always just asking.

And so, you know, that’s just me, unfortunately. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I don’t think it’s unfortunate. Maybe, maybe, you know, your family might disagree, but I, I think it sounds like a, you know, a great asset. I think it’s important to be able to, um, explore things and to question things, whether that’s yeah. At work or at home, it’s certainly something we try and encourage if I were children that they are, 

Haroon Bashir: I’ll tell you.

What’s really interesting. I liked football and. There I support football club. I won’t tell you which one, because I don’t want you to use, to sort of switch

when I’m at a football match. Everybody is one. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you’re wearing a color catcher, you will respond and you’ll sing it together. You’ll as soon as it’s a goal, you’ve all celebrating together. It’s really nice. I’ve even told my wife  and we were, we went to, went play with people around us.

We all the only bright places in the middle of all this stream of white football fans. And we didn’t feel threatened at all. And, um, and it was nice, but then suddenly when people then leave the stadium, they just go their own way into their own world. Um, and it’s a shame that, that can’t sort of carry on reading.

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. And bring coming together for kind of common purpose. That’s a really interesting thought though, actually. And maybe thinking about how do you create that? You know what you said this earlier, I’m really looking for commonality, isn’t it? And yeah. You shared a team. 

Haroon Bashir: Yeah, well, we did from it on football.

Um, not this famine, but last time ago where we had a football tournament for one, uh, one day from nine till 12 at night, and it was open to students, they came in as a hundred students that came in from all backgrounds together, the Muslims prayed and then they played football in the tournament and it was amazing.

Cause then about half 11, 12 o’clock, half 11, they just all left to know about him. And they were all like talking together and they were just doing things together. Wow. And it was so amazing to watch and it really sort of made me think that, you know, we need to do more of this. We need these sort of youth clubs that people can mix.

Yeah. When I was growing up, I spent more time in my church. I did in a mosque because I went to Scouts. I went to red cross that you’ve closed. Um, so it’s really interesting. And I suppose that gave me an appreciation for different places, different backgrounds as well. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. I think it’s important. Isn’t it?

To, to just get to know people as people 

Haroon Bashir: look beyond 

Pooky Knightsmith: all the other stuff, what, um, what kind of closing thought would you like to leave people with? This is the bit where you say something really profound. Okay. Yeah.

Haroon Bashir: That actually, you want to be that you want to be treated yourself and, you know, always ask those questions. Ask questions, ask, ask, ask. You’re not sure. Please just ask, because I think that anybody who’s got any differences, I’ll talk about their differences. And that will educate you so much. So that’s not very profound.

Pooky Knightsmith: I don’t know. I think if everyone listening wetter to take that onboard and go do it, that the world would be, you know, you’ve made your thing in the 

Haroon Bashir: universe. Yeah. And don’t be afraid to ask any silly questions because I think people, you know, to look at all the offender, you know, if you do it in the right manner, in the right approach, I think will listen, 

Pooky Knightsmith: what is the right manner to ask a kind of potentially offensive question?

Haroon Bashir: Well, just say, you know, I I’m, I’m really interested in your fight or your background or, and I don’t want to offend you, please explain to me, what is this issue or what is this about faith? You know? And, and if you do it, do like that and people won’t feel threatened, or, but if you said, why are you doing that?

Or, you know, And look at him. Oh yeah.

but every person I’ve met, I’ve spoken to have always been quite open and receptive to me asking questions. And when people would ask them questions, I don’t know anybody who sort of said, well, why are you asking for what, you know? Um, so they might be initially suspicious, but then if you explain, well, look, you know, I’ve seen that happening.

Um, and I’ve just thought I find it really interesting. And then when you’re taking an interest in them, they’re quite open about it. .