ETF Workforce Equalities Monitoring

Image showing the logo of The Education and Training FoundationWorkforce diversity monitoring and reporting is not new, or indeed news. We've been doing it for more than 50 years in the UK. The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is responsible for the annual publication of collated workforce equalities data for the FACESdefinition sector. As part of the ETF's Leadership, Management and Governance Programme (ELMAG), we* have been working with the Foundation and sector bodies that have won various Foundation tenders to develop good practice in workforce equalities monitoring. This work will help the Foundation to better-understand the effectiveness of their commissioned programmes and identify anything that's unfair (inequalities).

Yes, there's an anonymous online questionnaire involved, but it's not the usual minimal monitoring of age, disability, race and sex that we are used to in our sector. It asks about all 9 protected characteristics plus the social mobility questions developed by Professions for Good and questions relevant to the flexible working regulations that came into force in 2014. It's designed to be a questionnaire that you will want to complete because it recognises that our identity is multi-faceted and is not static. It changes over time. We hope it offers options that make it possible for you to self-identify. If it works, we'll have a much better sense of the diversity of the workforce and, more importantly whether there are inequalities of access to opportunities in talent management, career development, progression and leadership in the education and training sector. 

Interestingly, among those of us involved in developing it the questionnaire it has also proved to be a useful training tool. We've had many a productive training session and discussion around 'why monitor' and the various questions. We've been through several iterations, and it remains (as it should always) work in progress.

Building a culture of trust

The safer and more positive people feel about how you respect and reflect 'difference' in your organisation and how you make a positive practical difference by using monitoring information are the most important determining factors in whether people complete the questionnaire openly or accuse you of taking a 'tick box approach' or sabotage the exercise by selecting 'prefer not to say' from beginning to end.

We (the National Network of Equalities Networks,) have developed and presented to the sector innovative ways of talking about equalities. See, for example, the Abba parody below and our grpahic reporting of the Equalities Consultation Pop-Up Tour at

We have found that sharing as much of the rationale as you can (while not making the process too long for people) positively helps to change people's attitudes to equalities monitoring and the specific questions we ask. It is especally helpful to help people understand the rationale for any questions that surprise them. If you use our questionnaire you may want to further 'personalise' the rationale to your context and consider piloting it with a few people to see if you need to add any more explanations. 


You will switch people off from giving you their information if you don't tell them why you are asking for the information and what you plan to do with it.

The whole point of developing this equalities questionnaire is that it forms a contract between you and the person completing it. The premise of this 'deal' is that you will use the information for the ligitimate puroose of equalities monitoring to increase workforce equality, diversity and social mobility and that the people completing the questionnaire will be abel to see the purpose of providing you with their  equalities information, be able to identify themselves in the options available, trust you to keep this personal and sensitive data secure and annonymous.

We can't stop organisations from getting it wrong but if they can't keep to their  deal they are probably better off not bothering (but that woudl be against the law) but we do advise you not to:

  • Collect this information using a paper based form (it's too difficult to ensure people's anonymity)
  • Say 'it's not important/is just routine'/'the law'
  • Say you don't know what happens to the information once it's been collected
  • Say that you 'don't agree with monitoring but you have to/are 'required' to do it' by someone else
  • Preface it with a lengthy re-hashing of the equalities legislation...(in the example attached below, it looks as though the ETF has added a longer introduction than we would recommend but in the online questionnaire this information is provided behind hyperlinks so appears much shorter to the online reader unless they select each link)

Our rationale for the questionnaire (and the latest version of the questionnaire) is attached below. We will next review and if necessary update the questionnaire at the end of this academic year (2015/16) and annually thereafter. 

Rationale for the monitoring questions Thank you for the data      The lyrics

We have produced a video-short for the ETF, called 'Thank you for the data'. You can find outtakes and other versions on the equalitiestoolkit YouTube channel. We welcome your comments/feedback. Log in and post your comments below or tweet us @equalitytoolkit  #TYFTD (the link in case it does not 'play)

The Lyrics:

The questionnaire

You can access the latest version of the questionnaire (August 2015) via the button below. We will next review and if necessary update the questionnaire at the end of this academic year (2015/16) and annually thereafter. 

Equalities questionnaire

We have had some negative reactions to the questionnaire. The most forceful 'negative' comments we have received are about the inclusion of certain questions, especially the social mobility ones, and the number of possible responses to some questions. Some people think:

  • There are too many options and that this is 'surely not necessary'
  • There are too few options and the one that would 'enable me to describe or identify myself the way I see myself' (e.g. as 'European') is missing - please add it

If you think that there are too many options, you might want to ask yourself why:

"When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook." 

Facebook now offers an extensive list of gender identities that many people use to describe themselves and enables people to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly - male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their).

One of the limitations and difficulties we face currently in creating a questionnaire in which staff in the sector  'recognise themselves' is that we also need to retain/be able to collapse down additional descriptors into those used by the Office for National Statistics (ONSdefinition) for the Census. This is so that we can benchmark our data against national, learner and other occupational sectors' data.

We also believe that some of the ONS categories and options need to be modernised/widened/challenged/removed, including the 'lack of respect inherent in describing population groups by colour instead of heritage.'  We welcome and  support, the BLack of Respect Campaign (BORC), which seeks to: 

  • "Modernise the template the Office of National Statistics uses for ethnic categories, which is relied upon by institutions throughout the UK 
  • Remove from the Office of National Statistics lexicon the words “black” and “white” as the headline category to describe people of African and European descent respectively and use heritage-describing terminology as it does for other populations T
  • Stop perpetuating the negative and false skin ‘colour’  dichotomy or polarity of “black” and “white” in describing two specific population groups – people of direct African descent and those of European descent – which it can be argued evokes a specific history and perpetuates an old and specific form of racism"

We encourage you to use the questionnaire yourself. When you do, please remember that a voluntary anonymous monitoring form is never going to be the same as someone's personal identity compass but that doesn't mean that the process it isn't personal when an individual completes it. Some people may feel vulnerable or threatened by the process and/or questions that they find sensitive. You can do much to change that in your attitude to equalities and by providing a clear rationale and purpose for collecting the data.

Can we help?

We welcome comments and feedback. If you would like us to help you to use the questionnaire or to collect and/or analyse your equalities monitoring data contact us. Include a phone number where we can reach you and we'll give you a call to see how we can help. 

Who are 'we'?

For this particular project 'We' refers to a national network of the following national and regional equalities networks/groups and education and training providers: City College Plymouth - Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (fbfe) Equality North East - FE Providers' Equality Network - Forum for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity -Heart of Deafness - Network for Black and Asian Professionals (closed in December 2015) - NIACE (now Learning and Work Institute) - Signature - Teach Different - VIBE - Women's Leadership Network

Rationale re equalities data for 15.5.14 (1).doc208.5 KB
2016 ELMAG_16_Final_Equalities_Monitoring.doc278 KB