Young, white and female. I first wrote these words to describe the teaching profession in England during the early 1990s. I was not being sexist, ageist or racist, but rather reporting on the figures for the teaching profession in what was becoming a much more cosmopolitan society. Recent figures from the Department for Education allow us to consider how the profile of the teaching profession has changed since then.
There are about half a million people defined as teachers working in our schools and, of these, some 329,000 are white women, approximately two-thirds of all teachers. How to define young is challenging, but women below the age of 40 account for just over half the total, with those under 30 only accounting for a quarter of female teachers.
Overall, teachers self-classified as white account for approximately 442,000 of the 472,000 teachers whose ethnic background is known, or 93.6 per cent of teachers with a known ethnicity. There are about 10,000 black African or Caribbean teachers, almost 20,000 Asian teachers and about 700 Chinese, with 2,500 from other ethnic backgrounds.
Most ethnic-minority teachers are still to be found in the classroom, with relatively few among the ranks of school leaders. Fewer than 1 per cent of male heads are black and, even taken together with those of other non-white ethnic origin, they account for probably only about 100 of the 7,600 male heads. Among the 14,300 women heads, just over 1 per cent are black and a further 1.3 per cent are of Asian ethnic origin, making just over 300 heads from these groups.
We have yet to see the geographical distribution of ethnic-minority teachers, but it seems likely that the majority are concentrated within parts of London and other cities. So, at least two parts of my original statement remain true, despite more than a decade of government action to change attitudes. Whether it is any harder for minorities and men to enter teaching is not something this data can tell us. But it is an interesting question for policymakers.
John Howson is director of Data for Education, an independent research analysis company.