• Saturday, September 23, 2023


Ministers urged to act on lack of diversity among school teachers

By: Nadeem Badshah

SOUTH Asian-origin teachers continue to be under-represented in schools in
England, government figures show.

People of Indian origin make up 3.6 percent of the working age population, but only two per cent of teachers in state schools. Individuals of Pakistani heritage account for 2.8 per cent of working population compared to 1.3 per cent in teaching. And those from a Bangladeshi background make up 0.7 per cent in the profession, compared to 1.2 per cent of their working age population.

The figures have sparked concern from unions and campaigners about the lack of diversity in classrooms. Some 85.1 per cent of all teachers in state-funded schools in England were white British, compared to their working age population of 70.8 per cent, according to the Department for Education data.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers union, said it has been urging the government to address the “impact of structural and institutional racism which continues to play a huge part in the low recruitment and retention of teachers of south Asian origin”.

He told Eastern Eye: “Equality, diversity and inclusion are vital to the success of any education system and it is equally important in building confidence and self-esteem that the teaching profession is also representative of the pupils taught in schools.

“Despite evidence highlighting discrimination impacting on black and Asian teachers, the government is failing to take the action needed, including introducing mandatory race pay gap reporting and ensuring that all schools and academies are required to demonstrate how they are meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty with regard to the employment of teachers from south Asian backgrounds.”

The figures also showed that 92.5 per cent of headteachers were white British in 2021, compared to 0.9 per cent of those of Indian origin, 0.5 per cent from a Pakistani background and 0.1 per cent of Bangladeshi heritage.

Other ethnic groups under-represented in the classroom were people who identified as “Asian Other”, “Black African” and “Black Caribbean”. And there were more female than male teachers in every ethnic group, particularly among those of Indian origin with a 0.6 per cent difference between the genders.

Amarbeer Singh Gill, a secondary school maths teacher and CEO of education charity Inspired Learning, said it is a long-running problem due to a lack of willingness to address these issues from the sector as well as the resources to do so.

He told Eastern Eye: “I think people from those backgrounds are still likely to be only first or second generation immigrants and so are looking for jobs that can provide economic security, and given the cuts to education that have taken place since 2010 and the relative salaries they could be earning elsewhere, along with the wider challenges schools are also facing, is it really a surprise that people from these groups are underrepresented?

“Education needs to be prioritised by the government and then funded properly, once that is taken care of, then we can start to think more deeply about how we can increase representation of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“Organisations like Diverse Educators and BAMEed do a great job of giving a platform and network for teachers from those backgrounds, but this is a challenge that needs sector-wide acknowledgement and commitment.”

Teachers in England last month voted to accept the 6.5 per cent pay rise announced on July 13 by prime minister Rishi Sunak. The National Education Union (NEU), whose strikes shut schools on a number of occasions this year, said teachers had voted to end industrial action.

“This is good news for teachers, good news for parents and most of all, good news for students,” education secretary Gillian Keegan said in a post on Twitter.

Munira Wilson MP, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson, told Eastern Eye the government is missing their own recruitment targets and driving tens of thousands of young teachers out of the profession, “leaving millions of children to be taught by someone who isn’t an expert in their subject.”

She added: “We urgently need to recruit and retain more teachers across the board, and to improve diversity within the profession – especially among headteachers, 96 per cent of whom are white.

“Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to introduce a workforce strategy to boost teacher numbers and break down barriers to teaching for people from ethnic minority communities, so that every child has a great teacher and the best possible start in life.”

The government awarded a contract in June to develop “the next generation” of school academy trust chief executives to the National Institute of Teaching (NIoT). The first 25 participants will start in February 2024 with another 50 later. NIoT said it will “pay attention to diversity in our communications, recruitment and programme design” and expose those taking part in its programme “to highly skilled leaders from a range of backgrounds”.

Earlier this year, The Department for Education told heads of academies, colleges and schools to collect and publish their own diversity data.

In the guidance, the government stated: “Diversity is important and we want governing boards to be increasingly reflective of the communities they serve.

“We encourage academy trust boards to collect and publish diversity data about the board and any local committees. Information should be widely accessible to members of the school community and the public.”


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