Black 'role models' feel strain

28th January 2000 at 00:00
Ethnic-minority teachers complain that their work is being constantly disrupted by requests to act as interpreters and trouble-shooters, reports Warwick Mansell.

WELL-MEANING attempts by schools to deploy black and Asian teachers as role models and trouble-shooters with ethnic-minority pupils risk leaving them feeling "marginalised" and disenchanted with the profession.

Researchers Arnie Troxler and George Mardle of the Wolverhampton Race Equality Council interviewed 128 ethnic-minority teachers, heads, governors and parents in the west Midlands. They found that many teachers felt their careers had been damaged by being "pigeonholed" as racial experts.

In the short term, some teachers were frustrated that this extra role was disrupting their work. They said they were pulled out of lessons to break up fights involving ethnic-minority pupils, or to act as translators with parents.

In the longer term, some felt they had become "prisoners of their own ethnicity", remaining in roles working with ethnic-minority children or moving into pastoral support, rather than achieving senior positions.

One Asian teacher said: "The deputy actually came into my scienc lesson and asked me to leave my class, right in the middle of my teaching, to talk to this parent who couldn't speak English."

Mr Mardle said: "We found many examples of schools effectively using teachers as troubleshooters - for instance if an

African-Caribbean pupil has a problem, an African-Caribbean teacher is asked to sort it out. We are not talking about explicit racism, but teachers can feel marginalised into particular roles."

The report, to be published in March, acknowledges schools face a quandary in deploying ethnic-minority teachers, who can act as positive role models and raise pupils' aspirations.

Its findings will concern the Teacher Training Agency, which is publishing the research. The agency wants more ethnic-minority recruits. The lack of black and Asian teachers in senior posts is cited as a disincentive to those considering the profession. Currently 6 per cent of entrants are from ethnic minorities, compared to 9 per cent of pupils.

In 1997, only 3.5 per cent of Wolverhampton teachers were from ethnic minorities, against 28 per cent of pupils. There were no ethnic-minority primary heads, and only one secondary head.

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