Race Matters

Teaching profession fails to reflect multi-cultural student population

Runnymede’s head of research Dr Debbie Weekes Bernard is quoted in The Guardian today talking about experience of BME pupils in education. Full article replicated below

Ethnic minority professionals are under-represented at every level of education, according to a new report from youth employment charity Elevation Networks.

The report, which analysed research on employment in UK state-funded primary and secondary schools, found that last year just 6% of state primary school teachers and 9.9% of qualified and unqualified teachers in maintained secondary schools were from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

The research also analysed colleges, universities and higher education, where picture was equally disappointing: just 7% professors and 8% of senior lecturers were from BAME backgrounds.

This compares unfavourably with the UK population overall as a whole as the last UK census in 2011 showed that 13% of people identified as BAME. This percentage is even more pronounced in schools: 30.4% of primary students and 26.6% of secondary students in state schools are from minority ethnic groups, according to figures from the department for education (DfE).

The research, Race to the Top: 2, also highlights a long-standing lack of diversity in senior leadership in schools: just 3% of headteachers in state-funded primary schools and 3.6% in maintained secondary schools are from an ethnic minority groups.

Nicole Haynes, a headteacher at Mount Carmel Catholic College for Girls , says the gap at senior and middle leadership level is disappointing. She puts this in part down to the recruitment process, saying interview panels are often not ethnically or gender-balanced.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers , agrees: “It’s absolutely the case that ethnic minority teachers are unrepresented in the teaching profession, but more so in school leadership roles and that’s worrying in a multicultural society because children need to see teachers and school leaders from BAME role models to show the importance of education.”

A comparison of teacher workforce research with census data suggests there’s an over-representation of BAME teachers in outer London and the south-east. The West Midlands, however, suffers the worst shortfall: 6,613 ethnic minority teachers would be needed to ensure staff represent their student populations.

As well as affecting student engagement with school, the lack of role models could also deepen the staff recruitment and retention crisis that plagues teaching. Commenting on the report, Christine Blower, general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “It is very important that the teaching profession, alongside all other professions, is representative of modern British society. The prejudice and barriers that BAME communities face mean that many do not consider teaching as a profession despite the important role they could play.”

Based on current figures, the report estimates that we would need 51,132 more primary school teachers and 14,429 more secondary teachers to achieve proportional representation.

But these do not seem to be forthcoming. According to 2013-14 statistics from the National College for Teaching and Leadership , just 12% of trainee teachers were from minority ethnic groups – a figure that has remained fairly consistent for five years.

Bousted suggests schools-based teacher-training has exacerbated the pipeline problem for recruiting minority ethnic teachers. She said: “Ethnic minority candidates are less likely to get accepted into these training programmes because of bias. It might not be conscious but we know that school-based training [programmes] accept fewer BAME teachers and one of the reasons for this is that when universities co-ordinated teacher training there were lots of ways they supported applications for ethnic minority candidates, such as through access courses.”

The report makes a number of policy recommendations to improve diversity among education professionals, such as having more work experience/volunteering opportunities that feed into the teacher-training programmes. It also suggests making the curriculum more representative to encourage BAME students to consider teaching as a career.

Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, head of research at the Runnymede Trust , says research supports this recommendation. She said: “Where minority ethnic pupils have a negative experience of education they are less likely to consider teaching as a potential future career. A great deal of work explores the very low numbers of particularly black students choosing history as a degree subject [and how this] has had an impact not just on those taking initial teacher training courses featuring history as a specialism but also on those going on to study and then teach it as a subject within universities.”

By Kate Hodge and Sarah Marsh, published in The Guardian

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