Researchers reveal there are just 18 black teachers in Liverpool and warn of a 'crisis in representation'

15th February 2016 at 06:00
Liverpool, a city with one of the longest-established black populations in Europe, has a teaching workforce that fails to reflect its ethnic make-up, according to a new study.

Researchers Marie Charles and William Boyle used Freedom of Information requests to reveal that there are just 18 black teachers in Liverpool, a figure which has remained largely unchanged for 30 years.

This compares to 3,380 white teachers. The researchers say there should be 90 black teachers, if the local population was proportionally represented, and say that more should be done by the city council and schools to support black teachers in Liverpool. They did not obtain the number of teachers of other minority ethnicity groups.

“There is more power in the hands of schools and they have the power to change their workforce patterns,” said Ms Charles, an education research consultant.

“We know there are mechanisms for individuals to use to improve diversity, but they are not utilising them, they are accepting the status quo. This [research] is about taking a unified approach to this crisis and I’m not being dramatic, it is a crisis in terms of teacher representation.”

The paper How can only 18 black teachers working in Liverpool represent a diverse teaching workforce? A critical narrative details some of the experiences of black teachers in Liverpool ranging from being called the n-word to being shunned. It was published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education last month.

Liverpool is identified by the researchers as having “minimal black representation” in all departments of the council workforce.  

“Teaching is unique,” said Ms Charles. “It is the one face of civic power that every child will meet. It is a very powerful role to be in. We have to get rid of the erroneous argument that black teachers are there for black children, as role models. It is about representation across society. It is a message about who are the creators of knowledge.”

A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: “We are not complacent and accept there is more to do to encourage the black and minority ethnic (BME) community to consider teaching as a career. We have worked with the university teaching courses to try and encourage take up, and anecdotal feedback shows that many BME young people are more interested in medicine or law as a career.

"School Improvement Liverpool, the service that supports children from ethnic minority and traveller groups, works hard to provide teaching and support staff from a range of communities to assist children for whom English is not their first language.

"They provide positive role models and encourage our young people to consider a range of future careers including teaching. Comparison with other large cities shows that they face a similar challenge so it would be wrong to suggest this is an issue solely confined to Liverpool.”

While the research focuses on Liverpool, government statistics show that the problem of under-representation of black and minority ethnic people in teaching is nationwide.

Kauser Jan, assistant head at Bankside primary, Leeds, and a member of the NUT’s black teacher steering group, said: “There is a disproportionate shortage and lack of black and minority ethnic teachers across England and there has been for many, many years.

“When I qualified I was the only black person on my course out of about 180 students. I did feel marginalised.”

She added that having fewer black teachers meant that black children may not feel they fit into the profession. There may be difficulties being recruited onto courses or into jobs and problems getting promotion, meaning black people leave teaching. 

But she added: “I have been a teacher over 23 years and it’s an amazing job. You are at the helm of change, helping shape the future of society to empower children with knowledge. Nothing can equate to that.”

A report from the youth employment charity Elevation Networks published in November last year, said there was under-representation of black and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers . It found that across the North West 5.7 per cent of teachers were from ethnic groups. This compared to 2.8 per cent of teachers in the North East and 40.4 per cent of teachers in inner London.

It concluded that diversity initiatives were failing to have a “significant impact” on the “glaring inequalities” faced by teaching staff, saying that the number of ethnic minority teaching and leadership staff failed to reflect the diversity of the wider population and that the problem was more acute in the West Midlands, North West and Yorkshire regions, which all have sizeable ethnic minority communities.

*See the 19 February issue of TES for a feature on whether education has a problem with unconscious bias and what impact it has on students and staff.  

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