Racism 'endemic' in schools

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Widespread discrimination is barring black teachers from leadership jobs, research in England shows

The school system in England is guilty of an "endemic culture of institutional racism" that is barring black and minority ethnic teachers (BME) from leadership jobs, according to damning new research.

Widespread discrimination is identified as the biggest factor stopping BME male teachers from winning promotion to senior posts, the study reveals.

Almost half of the men and women who took part in the research said they had personally 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 who want to take on school 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."

There are marked differences between groups. Almost 75 per cent of African teachers reported experience of ethnic discrimination, compared with 40 per cent of Caribbean teachers, according to the study, commissioned by the NASUWT and the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services.

The biggest barrier to promotion for men and women is workload, teachers said, but they also identified recruitment policies and attitudes of senior colleagues as major concerns.

A spokesman for the Whitehall 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: "We know there is more to do to break down the barriers stopping black and minority ethnic teachers from achieving their full potential."

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