Just 19 of almost 1,000 headteachers appointed in the past school year were from ethnic minorities, new figures reveal.
A survey of nearly 40 per cent of schools in England and Wales showed that all new secondary and special school heads were white with only primary schools appointing ethnic-minority teachers to the top jobs.
Only 26 out of 1,137 new deputy heads in all schools were non-white, and just four of 193 new secondary assistant heads were from ethnic minorities.
The study, carried out for the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association, shows the gulf between the number of ethnic- minority teachers and pupils. Just 9 per cent of all teachers are from ethnic minorities, while up to 17.9 per cent of primary pupils, 16.3 per cent of secondary pupils and 17.2 per cent of special-school pupils are non-white.
Critics this week accused the Government of failing to encourage enough black and ethnic- minority teachers to take top school jobs and said pupils were being robbed of appropriate role models.
"This is a depressing picture and it is being seen year after year," said David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT. "Leadership positions should reflect the population of the country, and ethnic minorities, along with women, have been under-represented for a long time."
John Dunford, general secretary of the SHA, agreed, saying: "It is vitally important that school leadership should be representative of society.
"There has been a longstanding problem encouraging ethnic minorities on to the first rung of the teaching ladder, so it is not surprising they are not coming through in leadership positions," he added.
The criticism comes just weeks after England's General Teaching Council launched a race equality network to improve the achievement of black pupils and encourage more ethnic minorities to enter teaching.
John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, who led the study, said emphasis should also be placed on promoting existing ethnic-minority teachers into senior positions within schools.
"There is a longstanding problem," he said. "Bodies like the National College for School Leadership are failing to monitor the situation, and little is being done to encourage teachers from ethnic minorities to go forward for leading positions.
"The Government needs to take an urgent look at the problem," said Professor Howson.
A spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "More black and ethnic-minority teachers are needed at all levels of the school system to maintain high teaching standards, act as role models and reflect the ethnic diversity of children in schools today."
The Teacher Training Agency said that it will double the number of places offered to black and Asian trainees from 1,600 in 2001 to 3,000 by 2005.
An extra pound;1.5million will also be offered to training colleges over three years to boost the recruitment of trainees from ethnic minorities.
The National College for School Leadership set up its equal access to promotion programme three years ago in partnership with the National Union of Teachers.
The programme aims to help ethnic-minority teachers to move into senior positions. The NCSL said 138 teachers completed the course last year.