The school system is guilty of an "endemic culture of institutional racism" that is barring black and minority ethnic teachers (BME) from leadership jobs, according to damning research released today.
Widespread discrimination is identified as the biggest factor stopping BME male teachers from winning promotion, the study reveals.
Almost half of those who took part in the research said they had suffered from ethnic discrimination during their careers.
Previous studies have said a "compelling case" could be made for the existence of institutional racism against pupils, particularly with regard to exclusion rates. But this is the first major piece of research into how discrimination is affecting BME teachers seeking leadership roles.
The experiences of more than 550 teachers from a range of ethnic groups were examined by academics from Manchester University and Education Data Surveys.
"Foremost, and most worrying, it is clear that the incidence of discrimination reported by BME teachers and leaders within the school system is indicative of an endemic culture of institutional racism," their report found.
While improvements have been made in recruiting new teachers from more diverse backgrounds, "the profession as a whole is not perceived by the majority of BME teachers to be inclusive".
Almost 75 per cent of African teachers reported experience of discrimination, compared with 40 per cent of Caribbean teachers, according to the study, commissioned by teaching union the NASUWT and the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services.
The biggest barrier to promotion affecting both men and women is workload, teachers said, but they also identified recruitment policies and the attitudes of senior colleagues as major concerns.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the report showed that discrimination is "all too pervasive" in schools and called for a national scheme to track the careers of BME teachers.
"Institutional racism must not be allowed to flourish," she said. "It is robbing schools of too many talented and dedicated teachers and potential leaders."
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the situation had improved over the past 10 years with the introduction of support programmes.
But he added: "It is absolutely unacceptable for any teacher to be discriminated against because of their race, age, gender or religion. There's no place for it in any workplace."
"We know there is more to do to break down the barriers stopping black and minority ethnic teachers from achieving their full potential."