Black and minority ethnic teachers and students face 'systemic disadvantage', warns principal

15th November 2016 at 18:05
college principals BME diversity
Not enough has been done to increase the proportion of BAME staff and students in FE, according to a leading principal

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers and pupils in FE face a "systemic disadvantage", according to a leading college principal.

Andy Forbes, principal of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North-East London, and a member of the BAME Principals' Group, said today at the Association of Colleges' annual conference in Birmingham that "progress has been made" in increasing the proportion of BME staff and students in all areas of education, but it was "not enough".

"How many BAME headteachers are there in the state sector? Three per cent. How many apprentice starts of ethnic minority origin at 14 and 15 out of the thousands of apprentices? Ten per cent, BAME, of all the apprentices," Mr Forbes said.

"All the way through there is a systemic disadvantage. All the way through. And I think you have to recognise it's a polite disadvantage. I don't think it's anybody being nasty...it's [an] unconscious bias of people who are more comfortable with people like themselves. So I do think it's important, and it's important to actually modernise and update where we are. We have made progress, I would absolutely agree, but not enough. Not good enough, I think, is what we're saying."

'A terrible picture'

Mr Forbes also suggested that a training programme could be developed by government to improve the "terrible picture" of BAME representation in FE. 

"It's a call for action," Mr Forbes said. "And I think that's where we're starting from. We've got to revitalise this agenda, and come up with some straightforward asks of the sector. This is what needs to be done. And I think one of those things is a training programme, or some sort of development. Because when you look at the number of entrants to FE, the workforce stats that were publicised by TES this summer, I think it was a terrible picture emerging of the FE workforce. The BAME representation across the whole workforce is running around about 9 per cent."

He added: "We really have got problems in that there's not a pipeline coming through and for some reason in FE and education – it's schools as well – [there are] not enough bright entrants coming into the profession at the base level."

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