Minority teacher numbers unchanged in 20 years

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Just weeks after NASUWT reveals 'institutional racism' endemic in schools, Liverpool study exposes extent of problem

A study of teachers in Liverpool has found the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff has remained unchanged in 20 years despite the city's history of racial unrest.

In 1989, an inquiry set up by the city council and headed by Lord Gifford into policing and social conditions in the Toxteth area found widespread inbuilt racist attitudes, even though the city had a long-established black community. It described the situation as "uniquely horrific".

The new study comes after landmark research commissioned by teaching union the NASUWT published earlier this month discovered an "endemic culture of institutional racism" was barring BME teachers from leadership jobs.

Lord Gifford's report, Loosen the Shackles, made 57 recommendations for action, saying "job opportunities are at the heart of the problem which has to be solved".

He estimated that about 1.4 per cent of the teaching workforce were BME, compared to around 6 per cent of the city's population.

Now Bill Boyle, chair of educational assessment at the University of Manchester, and Marie Charles, a researcher at Pearson Education, have examined the situation in 2009.

They said although data was scarce, statistics from the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that there are around 4,558 teachers in Liverpool. While 97 per cent are described as white, the remaining teachers have no data recorded on their ethnicity and could include people from eight or nine different groups.

Using a different set of data, the researchers found that 0.4 per cent of teachers in the North West are black, with either a Caribbean, African or other heritage - an estimated 18 teachers in total. The city's black population stood at 8 per cent of the total in the 2001 census.

Professor Boyle and Ms Charles have expressed concern about the apparently low numbers of BME teachers and the lack of statistical information.

Professor Boyle said that both Gifford and the earlier Swann report on the education of children from ethnic minority groups had raised concerns about staffing in schools.

"The gravity of the situation as described in these reports has not impacted upon Liverpool's education teaching workforce policy and practice in any form, as the city's response is evidenced in our data," he said. "The invisibility of Liverpool's black teachers remains."

The city council said that it accepted the data it held on BME staff was not complete. It said it relied on schools for this data and would be undertaking a study next year to provide a more accurate picture.

A spokesman said: "Liverpool is absolutely committed to increasing the number of BME staff in our schools and a lot of good work has been going on to achieve this over a number of years.

"Progress is being made with the latest figures that show around 6 per cent of students studying for teaching qualifications at our universities are from BME groups."

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