‘More black teachers needed to improve Stem attainment’

Lack of black teachers and role models holding back pupil engagement in Stem subjects, says Lewis Hamilton’s Commission

Catherine Lough

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A new report on improving diversity in motorsports has said that a lack of black teachers and school leaders is affecting black students’ attainment and progress in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The report from the Hamilton Commission, Accelerating Change: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport – with a foreword by Formula One star Lewis Hamilton – says that black pupils’ attainment in Stem is partly caused by “a lack of black teachers and leaders in schools limiting the number of positive role models”.

News: 4 ways to get more black students in Stem

Background: Diversity - 'Black women didn't go into sciences'

Related: Tackle Stem teacher shortage in poor areas, urge MPs

The report also says that factors such as streaming or setting black pupils into lower-ability groups and schools’ limited activities to address attainment gaps across different groups also have a negative impact on black pupils’ progress in Stem.

And it says that “behaviour management practices in schools is disproportionately affecting young black students” including disproportionate levels of temporary and permanent exclusion of young black Caribbean and mixed white and black Caribbean students is also a factor hindering black pupils’ progression in Stem subjects.

The report recommends that new approaches to increase the number of black teachers in Stem subjects, such as encouraging more black students from Stem subjects in higher education, as well as existing black engineers and scientists, to become teachers in UK secondary schools.

It also says that a new exclusions innovation fund should be established to “address the factors that contribute to the high proportion of students from black backgrounds being excluded from schools”.

In a survey of 2,444 young people aged between 7 and 19 (of which 704 were from black ethnic groups), black boys’ interest in careers in engineering faded over time, with 49 per cent at ages 12-16 reporting an interest compared with 37 per cent at ages 17-19, whereas for white boys, the proportion who would consider engineering as a future career remained the same, at 40 per cent across both age groups.

And when black girls aged 7 to 11 were asked if they could become an engineer, 63 per cent said they could, falling to 49 per cent by ages 17-19.

The research also found that fewer black Caribbean students are studying the triple science route at GCSE.

“Previous research has shown that, in many schools, students are not always given the opportunity to choose whether to take the triple science pathway but have the decision made for them through, for example, setting or streaming,” it says.

“Top-set students are more likely to be offered triple science pathways compared with middle and bottom sets, but evidence shows that black students are less likely to be placed in these top sets in schools. This follows a more general trend of low teacher expectations towards students from black Caribbean backgrounds in particular.”

The report also highlights the National Education Union Anti-Racism Charter for schools, and calls “on teachers’ unions and other leadership bodies in education to work with us to ensure widespread adoption of the charter”.

It also advocates “the Department for Education and other bodies holding education data to enable easier public access to disaggregated data on student and staff characteristics at subject level”.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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