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BME teacher representation drastically below pupils'

Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds chronic lack of black and ethnic minority teachers in English schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 07, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that just 7.6 per cent of teachers in English state schools are from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) backgrounds. 

The Bureau also found that 97% of English state school headteachers are white. 

Responding to the findings, Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers union NASUWT, said: “It is clearly unacceptable and it is also disgraceful. Education is such a powerful determiner of life chances. All children and people working within education should be treated with dignity and with access to equality. That clearly is not happening.” 

The lack of BME teachers making it to leadership positions is seen as a major deterrent to would-be recruits. “There is a lack of fair and transparent recruitment procedures for interviews and a lack of awareness training for schools on equality issues,” Keates said. 

Professor Alistair Ross, from London Metropolitan University, agreed: “You can’t put your finger on a single appointment and say “that’s a racist decision” but if you look at the disparity of outcomes nationally then there is the presumption that racism, perhaps unwittingly, is taking place.” 

Attitudes to teaching from within the BME community are also regarded as a factor. Figures obtained by the Bureau show that only 13% of postgraduate trainee teachers in the 2014/2015 academic year were BME, compared with 35% of people studying medicine, dentistry and law at higher education institutions. 

“Amongst the Asian community teaching is thought not to be regarded highly,” Ross said. “Law and medicine are considered much more reputable professions to go into from your family’s perspective. But I would expect that pressure to weaken as generations move on.” 

“Part of the solution is to actively encourage young people from BME backgrounds to consider teaching as a valuable profession and at the same time, to talent spot and nurture BME teachers to consider taking up leadership positions,” said Leora Cruddas, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders. 

A DfE spokesperson said: “We trust school leaders to recruit the right teachers for their classrooms but we are clear that good teams should reflect the diversity of their communities. The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) teachers is at its highest level on record, and the percentage of BME trainees on postgraduate training course continues to rise.

“We are investing millions of pounds to attract the best and the brightest into the profession, regardless of their background, and we’re also expanding Teach First to get more top graduates into teaching in some of the most challenging parts of the country.

“By supporting schools to recruit and retain the high quality teachers they need, we will ensure every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.”    

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