BME teachers face significant racism

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Teachers who are black or minority ethnic (BME) face significant racism within the education system, according to new research from the NASUWT and the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services.

Over half (54 per cent) of BME teachers questioned said they have faced discrimination in their careers, research carried out by Manchester University and Education Data Surveys found.

The Report 'Leadership Aspirations and Careers of Black and Minority Ethnic Teachers', looked at the career experiences of over 500 BME teachers and how discrimination had affected their career opportunities, and concluded the majority did not believe the teaching system is inclusive.

It found that while most are keen to progress into leadership positions and develop their careers, issues of workload, a lack of self-confidence and discrimination are blocking the paths of many aspiring teachers.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of teachers' union NASUWT, said: "This report reveals the true extent of the problem of racism and discrimination that, regrettably, is still all too pervasive in our schools.

"Systematic ethnic monitoring at local authority and national levels must be undertaken to enable BME teachers' career paths to be tracked and the barriers to their progress on the leadership scale to be identified and removed."

She added: "Institutional discrimination must not be allowed to flourish. It is robbing the schools of too many talented and dedicated teachers and potential leaders."

Seven in ten teachers surveyed said they thought it was harder for BME teachers to secure leadership posts than other teachers, and 44 per cent said they had been discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnicity.

Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of African teachers believed they had been discriminated against, compared to 40 per cent of Pakistani respondents and a third (34 per cent) of Indian and Caribbean teachers.

Steve Munby, Chief Executive of the National College, said: "BME teachers are ambitious to progress but it's clear they face barriers in achieving their career goals. That is why we are calling on everyone within education to act now to ensure that the talent within our schools isn't wasted.

"We are also encouraging BME teachers to have the confidence to go for headship. Schools need their skills and the National College is working hard to ensure they have the help and support they need to achieve the leadership positions they deserve."

A spokesman at the Department for Children, Schools and Families said more had to be done to stop discrimination within schools.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for any teacher to be discriminated against because of their race, age, gender or religion. There's no place for it in any workplace," he said.

"We know there is more to do to break down the barriers stopping black and minority ethnic teachers from achieving their full potential."

  • Male BME teachers perceived discrimination as their greatest problem.
  • For women, lack of confidence was the second most commonly cited barrier.
  • African teachers complained that a lack of recognition of overseas experience and qualifications was a significant problem.
  • 70 per cent of respondents said it was harder for BME teachers to secure leadership positions than is the case for other teachers.

Report recommendations:

  1. Ethnic monitoring of the teacher workforce should be undertaken in a more systematic fashion at school, local authority and national levels so that data can be collated, analysed and used more effectively in strategic planning. Specifically, more comprehensive and detailed data on recruitment and retention, disaggregated by ethnicity, sex and local authority, should be available nationally to allow BME teachers’ career paths to be tracked.
  2. BME teachers’ progress on the leadership scale in particular should be more effectively monitored. All NPQH completers should be tracked from the point of completion of the award to their appointment to headship; data including the time taken to progress to headship and the characteristics of the schools to which they are appointed should be recorded. This data should be available nationally disaggregated by ethnicity and sex to allow BME leaders’ career paths to be tracked.
  3. Further research needs to be undertaken to ascertain the levels of discrimination endemic in the school system in respect of ethnicity, gender and faith. The research needs to examine the complex ways in which such institutionalised discrimination operates in militating against the career progression of BME teachers and recommend how it may be overcome.
  4. Further research needs to be undertaken to examine the factors that cause a disproportionately high number of BME senior leaders to be appointed to urban schools and schools with high proportions of BME pupils on the roll. In particular, research needs to establish to what degree the high concentration of BME senior leaders in these schools results from discrimination in the recruitment and selection process, understand how and when during the process such discrimination occurs, and recommend how it may be overcome. The recommendations should, in particular, address how the appointment panels may be helped to recognise and acknowledge the value of overseas qualifications and experience.
  5. The barriers to BME teachers’ leadership aspirations are well documented. In addition to tacking the discrimination as outlined above, systematic support targeted at individual needs across and within ethnicities should be provided to mitigate the various barriers including workload, self-confidence, caring responsibilities and access to high quality leadership development opportunities. Strategies might include the development of support networks, mentoring and sources of guidance and support by people who understand the challenges faced by BME teachers in progressing their careers.
  6. When depicting teachers in leadership posts, BME role models should be used wherever possible, in order create an image of an inclusive profession and to challenge the dominant cultural perceptions that BME teachers do not make good leaders.
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