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Minorities miss bonuses

Black and Asian staff are much less likely to succeed at threshold, reports William Stewart

Experienced teachers from ethnic minorities stand a significantly lower chance of qualifying for pound;2,000 performance pay bonuses than their white counterparts New figures from the Department for Education and Skills show that while 92 per cent of all eligible teachers qualified to cross the pay "threshold" on to the upper pay scale in 20012 only 74 per cent of Black African candidates and 81 per cent of teachers with a Bangladeshi background did so.

White British and Indian candidates matched the 92 per cent. But the figure was 85 per cent for Pakistani teachers, 85 per cent for Chinese teachers and 87 per cent for black Caribbean teachers.

The National Union of Teachers, which has pressed the DfES to release the figures since performance pay began in 2000, is calling for an investigation into the discrepancies.

John Bangs, NUT head of education, said: "These figures are a very deep cause for concern. Our black members feel they have been discriminated against. There is a public duty to investigate racism whether it is direct or indirect."

Similar concerns have already been raised about compulsory basic skills tests for trainee teachers. In 2001-2 only 78 per cent of non-whites passed the numeracy test compared to 93 per cent of white candidates. In literacy, the corresponding figures were 83 compared with 94 per cent, and in computer skills, 92 compared with 98 per cent.

A Commission for Racial Equality spokeswoman said: "Everybody's trying to get blacks and Asians into the teaching profession. Close this gap and they might be more likely to apply."

Surrey Roehampton and Paisley universities collected anecdotal evidence on performance pay showing that equal opportunities issues had been marginalised when training independent assessors who verify heads'

decisions on threshold applications.

They said unions had reported that non-whites were disproportionately represented in their caseload of threshold appeals.

Pat Mahony from Surrey Roehampton said: "We keep getting the same data showing that minority ethnic teachers are failing disproportionately in whatever hurdles are set for them. The next stage is to start asking questions about why this is happening. There needs to be a rigorous and robust research on why these students and teachers are being disadvantaged."

The NUT fears the DfES's plans to abandon external checks on heads'

threshold decisions in September 2004 will make it harder to track and prevent discrimination.

The Government says it cannot justify the pound;10 million annual cost of the "bureaucratic" external assessment process, operated by Cambridge Education Associates.

DfES figures show 20,715 teachers applied to cross the threshold in 2001 of whom 1,288 were from ethnic minorities. Groups with the lowest rates of success were mixed white and black African teachers at 33 per cent, and white Irish at just 9 per cent. But only three and 11 teachers fell into these categories respectively.

A DfES spokeswoman said: "Our statistics show some differences in pass rates between different ethnic groups but it is difficult to draw an immediate conclusion that this indicates discrimination in the assessment process." She said an independent assessment of the test skills for trainee teachers had found they were fair.

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