Report slams lack of ethnic diversity in teaching

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

Scotland must address racism and racial discrimination in schools if the country is to attract more teachers from Black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds, according to a government-backed report.

It highlighted shocking cases of casual racism which it said reinforced the barriers facing BME people and limited diversity in the profession.

BME teachers account for only one per cent of the total, down from almost two per cent in 2011. Yet four per cent of people in Scotland are from minority ethnic groups, the last Scottish census found. For headteachers and depute heads the figures are even lower, representing only 0.6 per cent of the total.

The report, Teaching in a Diverse Scotland, states: “The working group is concerned that the depth of disparity of understanding and awareness of issues is acting as a major barrier to diversifying the teaching workforce.

“In our view, this … is present throughout the arc of a teacher’s career, from their experience of school as a pupil, applying to university teaching courses, student experience within programmes, seeking permanent employment and ultimately to applying for promotion. Being subjected to low-level everyday racism in a school setting is impacting on ... morale, confidence and self-esteem.”

In one example cited in the report, a White teacher mentoring a talented ethnic minority teaching student complained to her university that she smelled of curry.

In another, a secondary teacher with pupils from Syria, Pakistan and India was overheard by an ethnic minority teacher saying: “I think I am coming into a refugee camp.”

A key recommendation from the working group, chaired by Professor Rowena Arshad, head of education at Edinburgh University, is that BME teachers should make up at least four per cent of the total by 2030.

Ms Arshad, co-director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland, said: “This lack of diversity is becoming increasingly pressing and visible as the pupil population in Scottish schools is getting more diverse.

“Research demonstrates that Black and minority ethnic individuals overall are applying for teacher positions at a rate near, and often above, that of the wider population. However, it is not just a matter generating interest in Black and minority ethnic young people to consider teaching, it has also to be about dismantling any barriers to recruitment, promotion and retention.”

John Swinney, the education secretary and deputy first minister, demanded change. He said: “Radically improving the diversity in Scottish teaching is not just good for society, the evidence shows it benefits pupils and schools. We must be absolutely sure there is no bias or complacency at every level, from our university admissions or teacher recruitment processes to promotion and progression.”

  • Teaching in a diverse Scotland: increasing and retaining minority ethnic teachers, November 2018, Scottish government: http://bit.ly/2TcEJnL


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