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Scottish study flags up lack of opportunities for black and minority ethnic teachers

Findings prompt call for educators to ‘stop sliding away’ from confronting racism

Scottish study raises concerns about lack of opportunities for black and minority ethnic teachers

Findings prompt call for educators to ‘stop sliding away’ from confronting racism

Research has identified widespread concern about the lack of promotion opportunities for black and minority ethnic (BME) teachers in Scotland.

Glasgow City Council researchers, who surveyed 490 staff across all school sectors and 513 secondary pupils, found a big divide in how BME and white teachers viewed career prospects in the profession.

Teachers categorised as “white Scottish/white other” were twice as likely as their BME colleagues to have been appointed to a promoted post, while BME survey respondents were “much less likely” to have been encouraged by their manager to apply for promotion.

The report, Ethnic Diversity in the Teaching Profession: a Glasgow perspective, also reveals a huge divide along ethnic lines in how teachers view the scale of the problems faced by BME teachers. Three-quarters of BME survey participants felt that promoted posts were difficult to obtain for teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared with less than 10 per cent of white teachers.

And while 66 per cent of BME respondents considered potential discrimination from colleagues to be a deterrent to becoming a teacher, only 11 per cent of white respondents agreed.

Concerns were also raised about discrimination beyond the school gates, with one surveyed Pakistani primary teacher saying the current “political climate is a huge hindrance for Muslim teachers”.

Vicious circle

A survey of pupils, however, also suggested other factors that may be alienating BME people from teaching. None of the BME pupils in a focus group, for example, had considered teaching, and they talked of “higher aspirations”, with their families keen for them to go into science, medicine, computing or business.

And some pupils identified a vicious circle: a dearth of BME teachers resulting in a lack of role models presenting teaching as a “plausible career choice” for BME children.

Professor Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s school of education, says the Glasgow research – which also used focus groups – would help shape the findings of a Scottish government short-term working group she is chairing, designed to increase the number of teachers from underrepresented groups.

In response to the Glasgow survey, Professor Arshad said: “It is time that employers and those that provide preparation for school leaders tackled the issue of racism within the profession, corridors, classrooms and staffrooms.

“Stop sliding away from confronting the issue – hiding behind phrases like ‘unconscious bias’ or just talking about inclusion. Perhaps the ‘face fits’ and ‘old pals’ issue still exists?”

Getting better representation

Glasgow City Council education director Maureen McKenna said the authority was already considering several courses of action prompted by the research, including “more qualitative work with pupils who want to enter teaching as a profession and galvanising the support of current BME teachers to help spearhead a push to communities to highlight the benefits of teaching as a career of choice”.

“We also need to consider nationally the issue of recruitment, selection and promotion of BME teachers,” she added.

“We started this research over a year ago because we recognised that our workforce did not reflect the communities we serve. I am pleased that we are able to use it to influence practice, not just in Glasgow, but also nationally, as I am part of the national working group."

Education secretary John Swinney said: “We want BME groups to be better represented in teaching and have engaged with a number of charities, local authorities, ITE [initial teacher education] providers and other groups to get their views on how to make that happen.”

He added that, while “teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities, we want to encourage action to address this issue”, and that the group chaired by Professor Arshad would make recommendations “in the coming months”.

This is an edited version of an article in the 4 May edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full article hereTo subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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