Fears of TDA diversity 'downgrade'
The organisation in charge of the recruitment of teachers in England has axed all its initiatives to train more black and ethnic minority teaching staff.
In addition, universities and teacher training colleges will no longer have to meet diversity recruitment targets, a move that has been damned by campaign groups.
They have warned that the move will "downgrade" efforts to improve equality in education.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), the quango behind the move, has spent more than pound;6 million since 2007 trying to encourage those from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities to go into teaching, but this has had little impact.
The percentage of new trainees in England from BME backgrounds slipped to 11.2 per cent in 200910, down from 11.6 per cent in 200809, and the TDA has previously promised to "make progress" to reverse this.
Around 94 per cent of the profession is white.
Initiatives to attract more BME teachers gained added impetus from the reports on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the Bradford riots which said education was key to better race relations.
But this has now come to an end with news that the TDA has scrapped the recruitment and retention funding scheme and the BME recruitment and retention challenge grant.
In a letter to universities last week Paul Cohen, TDA director of initial teacher training recruitment, said this was because many teacher trainers had already "reformed their practices".
"We remain committed to promoting a diverse body of teacher trainees, and intend to support providers by facilitating peer-to-peer learning and providing case studies of successful practices," he said.
But one university equality officer, who asked not to be named, said the TDA was "downgrading the issue of equality".
"It's not a surprise in times of public spending cuts, but the targets were very important in keeping diversity on the agenda. They set the objectives for us," he said.
"It's so important to have black and ethnic minority role models in schools."
David Gillborn, professor of critical race studies in education at London University's Institute of Education, was also concerned about the decision: "The idea that the TDA can improve equality by not focusing on individual groups is a nonsense and ridiculous.
"A lot more people from BME backgrounds are now interested in joining the teaching profession, but the idea that all the necessary work has been done is very wrong."
A TDA spokeswoman said: "Historically, providers have tended to under spend on their BME allocations.
"Our latest data (200809) shows that the available funding was underspent by approximately 30 per cent."
Widening access: Teach tasting
An outreach project by academics and trainee teachers at Edge Hill University in Lancashire to encourage applicants from disadvantaged communities has secured a small rise in the number of black and minority ethnic entrants to PGCE courses.
Potential recruits are given information about the best route into the profession and helped with their applications.
They also have the opportunity to take part in literacy and numeracy "taster' programmes.
Lecturer Vicky Duckworth, who is co-ordinating the project, said: "Navigating the system can be a really big obstacle, especially for those with no experience of universities.
"Ethnic minorities feel the door is shut to them, especially if they have qualifications from other countries.
"We've been into Muslim women's centres and adult education classes and other places where there are groups of people who wouldn't have thought of teaching."
- Original headline: Fears of diversity `downgrade' as TDA bins equality remit