BAME people 'woefully underrepresented' in schools

The lack of BAME teachers in Scottish schools is 'unacceptable', said Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon

Henry Hepburn

BAME teachers

The low number of black and ethnic minority (BAME) teachers in Scotland is "unacceptable", first minister Nicola Sturgeon said today.

Ms Sturgeon said that, although there had been some improvement, Scotland's BAME population was still "woefully underrepresented" in schools.

She spoke during First Minister's Questions this afternoon after the shadow education secretary, Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, highlighted a dearth of BAME teachers, particularly in leadership roles.


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Mr Greene said: "Everyone needs role models in life...so it is disappointing that only 1.6 per cent of teachers in Scotland are from a black or minority ethnic group, despite their percentage of the population being more than double that.

"In a recent survey, nearly half of BAME teachers surveyed believed that their ethnicity had been a barrier to promotion. BAME people account for only 0.6 per cent of teachers who are in promoted positions. It is vital that we identify the structural barriers that exist behind those statistics."

He added: "However, we must also empower teachers of all backgrounds, so that they have the confidence and tools to tackle inappropriate language and behaviour in the classroom. In the light of everything that is going on right now, that is an area in which we can and must do better.

"What better way to start than by committing, today, to ensuring that our schools and businesses, and even our Parliament, look and feel more like the world outside them?"

In response, Ms Sturgeon said: "I wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments...BAME people are woefully underrepresented among our school teachers and in education generally.

"To give a little bit of context, the number in Scotland’s schools has increased by just over 5 per cent in 2019, compared with 2018, and by 26.4 per cent since 2015. However, there is still much more to do.

"The underrepresentation is still unacceptable, and we know from work that has been carried out with BAME teachers that one of the key issues is a lack of diversity of role models and senior leaders in the teaching profession, which is why the recommendations that we are taking forward with the working group that is chaired by Professor [Rowena] Arshad are so important.

"There is also a more general issue, and now is an opportunity for all of us to both recognise that and dedicate ourselves to doing more to tackle it – and tackle it more fundamentally – whether that is in our schools, in businesses or in this Parliament, which must look more like, and be more representative of, modern Scotland."

The first minister said that the Scottish government had acknowledged "the underrepresentation of BAME people in teaching at all levels" in 2018, having commissioned the report Teaching in a Diverse Scotland, by Professor Arshad, then head of the University of Edinburgh's School of Education and currently co-director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES).

The report, published in November 2018, contained 17 recommendations and led to a commitment by education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney that the number of BAME teachers in Scottish schools would be doubled by 2030.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The associated working group, which is chaired by Professor Arshad and comprises a range of CERES stakeholders, is currently working with partners to implement those recommendations."

Meanwhile, Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, has published guidance for BAME members on the reopening of schools.

In one key point, it states: "The EIS position goes beyond that which is currently available from the Scottish government. Our advice is that all BAME staff and those living with BAME people at home should request an individual risk assessment. We will make the case, in consultation with our [BAME] members, for strengthened guidance in this respect, through our representation on the Education Recovery Group."

The EIS has also gathered on its website a collection of new anti-racism education resources.

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Henry Hepburn

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