The Government still has no idea how many black and Asian teachers there are in the workforce. Yet three years ago the Stephen Lawrence inquiry identified institutional racism as a major problem in Britain. And two years ago inspectors said schools were failing to combat ethnic-minority underachievement.
"There is no data," Geoff Southworth, research director at the National College for School Leadership, told a University of London Institute of Education seminar last week. The college has launched a course that aims to get black and Asian teachers through the glass ceiling. It will help them identify training needs and improve their leadership skills.
The first of the two-day Equal Access to Promotion workshops, part-funded by the National Union of Teachers, drew 22 middle managers to Nottingham last week.
"It was the most diverse group that I have ever worked with," said tutor Meena Modi. "There were black African-Caribbeans, black Africans, Sikh, Gujarati, Muslim - a wide variety." Each teacher will carry out a school-based project before returning to the NCSL for a two-day follow-up next March.
"We did look at obstacles to promotion," said Ms Modi, a British Asian. "But we concentrated on how to overcome them and did not focus on negative stories about racism - we are all experts on that. The course is about pinpointing a way forward."
The group looked at what makes an effective team and leader and considered research on the careers of ethnic-minority school leaders.
Meena Modi is one of them. She is head of Derwent lower in Bedfordshire, a largely white school in a predominantly white area. "I have a very supportive governing body," she said. "My appointment must have been a challenge for them, both on gender and race grounds."
She argues the educational establishment needs to do much more to combat racism. "Most staffrooms are noticeably monocultural. What messages are we giving the kids ?"
Meena has recently completed the Leadership Programme for Serving Heads (LPSH), but points out that it did not look at ethnicity. Such oversights may become less common thanks to the amended Race Relations Act. Under this public authorities have a duty to promote race equality and to monitor and publish each year the ethnic make-up of staff and applicants for job (see Legal Issues, below).
Local authorities already collect this information, but the failure of the DfES to collate the data (it hopes to next year) is making life difficult for the college.
Some bodies have set targets for ethnic-minority candidates. The Teacher Training Agency wants 9 per cent of teaching students to come from minority backgrounds by 20056. This year the figure was 7.9 per cent. At present there is no such benchmark for NPQH, though, says Collette Singleton, NCSL assistant director tracking the make-up of those doing NPQH and LPSH is "a priority".
Meanwhile, the 150 places on the Equal Access courses will help aspiring heads to be "clearer about what they need to do next with respect to their own development", said Meena Modi. "We need visible role models. Governors are inclined to play safe with appointments. They need to have the confidence to appoint on merit."
HOW TO GET STARTED
The Equal Access to Promotion course involves an initial two-day residential workshop followed by a second workshop 10 or 12 weeks later. In between workshops, participants carry out research into leadership and management issues. The courses are free and include travelling expenses, but not supply cover. Places are still open at the following centres:
* Grantham: January 20-21, 2003.
* Newcastle: February 3-4.
* Bristol: February 6-7.
For further information, see the NCSL website www.ncsl.org.uk or contact Maria Bakari on 0115 872 2077 or email email@example.com