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‘Law should be changed to require schools to interview black teachers’

Academic calls on government to adopt policy of "affirmative action" to address underrepresentation of black teachers in the school system

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Academic calls on government to adopt policy of "affirmative action" to address underrepresentation of black teachers in the school system

The government should look at changing the law to make sure schools interview black teaching candidates, an academic has suggested.

Professor Shirley-Anne Tate of Leeds Beckett University said schools should interview all qualified and experienced candidates from a black and people of colour (BPOC) background to address the under-representation of BPOC teachers in the school system.

Currently, 13 per cent of state-funded school teachers are BPOC, compared to 27 per cent of pupils.

Professor Tate – the country’s first professor of race and education – said the current UK law banning affirmative action should be changed.

'Positive action'

“At the moment, it would be illegal to make schools interview BPOC candidates, because we do not have affirmative action in the UK,” she said.

“Perhaps it is time the government looked at changing the law,” she added.

Professor Tate urged heads to take “positive action” to address the racial imbalance in the school system by interviewing all suitably qualified and experienced BPOC candidates.

“Throughout my career, I have spoken to many BPOC teachers who have found it difficult to even get an interview for a job,” she said.

“They have the same qualifications as everyone else, and yet they are not being given the same opportunities. This has been going on since the 1980s, and as a country we have ended up with this huge imbalance, all at a time when we are crying out for new teachers while experienced teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers.

“Research has shown that there are BPOC students qualifying as teachers, yet they are not ending up in the classroom.  This shows there must be bias during the recruitment and selection process.”

Bias against black teachers

Professor Tate said she’d experienced racial bias in the recruitment process during her teaching career.

She said: “When I was looking for my first teaching job, I once turned up for an interview and was told they were expecting me to ‘be blonde’ because of my name. Obviously, they thought I was white. I didn’t get the job.”

“The lack of BPOC teachers in our schools is a huge problem for the country. Many of our schools are diverse and complex institutions, with pupils from a wide range of social, economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“And yet research shows that if you are from a BPOC background, you have a much smaller chance of becoming a teacher even when well qualified.

“The impact of this is enormous. The teaching staff in a school should reflect the pupils they are teaching.”

In January, the Football Association announced it would interview at least one applicant from a black and minority ethnic background for future roles, adopting its own version of the NFL’s "Rooney Rule".

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