Tick the ethnic boxes

29th April 2005 at 01:00
Teachers are holding back progress by refusing their ethnicity information, says racial watchdog. Nicola Porter reports

Fewer than one in a hundred new teachers in Wales is from an ethnic-minority, according to the first statistics ever published on teachers' racial backgrounds.

And serving teachers who refuse to fill in voluntary monitoring forms are holding back the development of a national database which could show where the shortages in ethnic-minority teachers are most acute, it was claimed this week.

Chris Myant, director of the Commission for Racial Equality in Wales, believes white teachers are not ticking the appropriate boxes.

"I believe more should be done to inform teachers of the positive side of filling in the forms for education in Wales. Only then will we get a true breakdown of ethnic-minority pupils and teachers."

The Commission is working with the Assembly to encourage employers, mainly local education authorities, to ask teachers if they mind having ethnicity boxes filled in on their behalf.

Figures published by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) show that just nine (0.9 per cent) of 920 newly-qualified teachers who completed induction by March 2005 were non-white.

According to Assembly government statistics, 3.5 per cent of Welsh pupils are non-white, although the background of another 3 per cent is unknown.

An Estyn report published last year highlighted under-achievement by ethnic-minority pupils, which LEAs blamed on lack of cash to help children other than those with little or no English. Other research has emphasised the importance of having ethnic-minority teachers as role models for pupils, particularly under-achieving black boys.

A GTCW spokesperson said its statistics had been limited to new entrants to the profession because at least a third of all teachers had failed to tick boxes on their race and nationality when renewing their registration details.

The council is responsible for monitoring teacher recruitment and retention in Wales, including recruitment of ethnic-minority teachers.

The spokesperson said: "This is something we are working on in a bid to publish an all-Wales table of ethnic-minority teachers in the future. But teachers will have to fill in their boxes, which are not mandatory. As much data as possible is needed to help us inform the action we take on recruiting teachers and monitoring the make-up of the profession."

Rod Phillips, headteacher of Cathays high school in Cardiff, agreed that more should be done to encourage teachers to tick ethnicity boxes. Around half of his pupils are from minority backgrounds.

"It is important for ethnic-minority pupils to have ethnic-minority teachers for their development. We are very proud of our multi-cultural school community and I believe the database would be very helpful."

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, said teachers should not be made to feel obliged to provide the information.

But she added: "If more teachers realised that filling in these forms would give government and policy-makers a better picture of what's going on, we might well see a greater willingness."

The GTCW statistics also show the number of male teachers in secondary schools has fallen, from 5,619 last year to 5,522. The numbers are also down in special schools and pupil-referral units, but primary male teachers remain at 2,210.

The most marked drop in male teachers was in the 55-59 age group, which fell from 1,750 to 1,607, while the total number of male teachers under 25 fell from 203 to 178.

Overall, there are 470 fewer men in the Welsh teaching force than in 2002, and men now account for only 27 per cent of all teachers. So while more men are training, even more are leaving the profession.

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