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Recruiters aim to target minorities

Black and Asian people are to be targeted in a recruitment campaign intended to alleviate the country's teacher shortage and make the profession more representative of Britain's ethnic diversity.

The Teacher Training Agency has talked to the Commission For Racial Equality about how to bring in more people from ethnic minorities into schools. The CRE argues that teacher training has failed to address fully the issue of racial equality.

In addition to recruitment drives, TTA chief executive Anthea Millett has hinted that courses may need to adapt to meet the needs of people from those communities.

In a parallel move, the agency also aims to attract more disabled people into teaching, with a campaign beginning in autumn.

The agency and the CRE have held three conferences and produced a joint report, Teaching in Multi-Ethnic Britain. The report and the conferences have highlighted problems facing teachers from ethnic minorities.

They include a lack of role models, difficulty getting on courses, and high rates of unemployment on qualifying. But the agency is concerned at the lack of hard evidence since the Department for Education and Employed stopped monitoring teachers' ethnicity because the number of recruits from minority communities was so low.

"We have anecdotal evidence that there is a high drop-out rate," said Jane Benham, the agency's head of teacher supply and recruitment. "But it's only anecdotal because we can't track it."

The agency is lobbying the Government to reintroduce ethnic monitoring, but is also commissioning its own major study tracking minority groups on teacher-training courses at Newcastle, Loughborough and Hertfordshire universities.

At the same time, it will advertise to ethnic-minority communities, both in the black and Asian press and in mainstream media. Schemes such as that run by the National Mentoring Consortium at the University of East London will also target minority groups.

And the agency's new advocates for the profession - serving teachers who spread the word that teaching is a great job - will be fully representative.

Speakers at the three conferences said action was needed to help address the underachievement of some ethnic-minority pupils in school - which in itself cut the pool of future teachers - and give pupils positive role models; to re-affirm the importance of multi-cultural education; and to tackle issues of racial harassment. More needed to be done to help people from the minorities to become - and stay - teachers.

The agency had been accused of only turning to ethnic minorities in a crisis. "But even if we were up to target, ethnic minorities would still be under-represented in teaching," Ms Benham said.

"We want the highest quality teachers for our children. If we're cutting off from the ethnic-minority population and they are not applying, we are losing out on high quality candidates."

Anthea Millett, at the launch of the TTA's corporate plan last week, said students from ethnic minorities often took longer to complete higher education courses - many study part-time and reach university as mature students via access courses - and found it harder to travel to college or to teaching practice.

"We have to take teacher training out to areas where there are higher concentrations of people from ethnic minorities," she said.

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