Almost half of all schools in England have no black or minority ethnic teachers, and even where there is diversity among staff, senior leadership teams are invariably white, research has found.
As a result, minority ethnic pupils can go through school without seeing their background represented in their teachers. Minority ethnic teachers, meanwhile, face a “hidden workload” of tackling racial inequalities in schools, which can lead to burnout and high turnover, researchers said.
The report, by researchers at UCL’s Institute for Education, questions the idea that the education system is making progress in terms of racial equality in teaching.
It says there has been a small increase in the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers over the last decade, but a significant gap between the proportion of minority ethnic students and teachers in schools in England persists.
According to figures for 2019, 65% of pupils and 86% of teachers are white British. Analysis of the 2018 School Workforce Census and related administrative school census datasets, found that 46% of all schools in England had no BAME teachers at all.
The analysis also found that while half of schools (53%) had BAME teaching assistants, a quarter (26%) had no BAME staff at all, and only 16% employed more than a fifth of their teachers from BAME groups.
The Making Progress? report says BAME teachers are concentrated in London schools, which have an ethnically diverse intake and high levels of disadvantage, and it raises concerns about the lack of BAME school leaders, which is seen as a key factor in lower retention rates among BAME teachers than their white counterparts.
“All of the teachers interviewed disapproved of the universal whiteness of senior leadership teams (SLT) in otherwise diverse schools,” the report notes. “This issue plays a role in teachers’ decisions to move schools because of a perceived negative impact on the organisational culture.”
It says overt and covert racism is a factor in lower retention rates among BAME teachers. “BAME teachers had the same high levels of workload as all teachers, plus an additional ‘hidden workload’ of coping with racism,” the report notes.
One primary school teacher of black Caribbean heritage told researchers she decided to leave teaching within five years of qualifying after experiencing racism. Her first job, which she enjoyed, was in a diverse London school, but when she moved to do supply teaching in Bristol, she said there was little diversity. “The racism, for me it was too much,” she said. She returned to a London school where the pupil intake was 97% black African and Caribbean but all six members of the SLT were white.
The report’s lead author, Dr Antonina Tereshchenko, said: “As BAME teachers tend to work in urban schools with high minority and more disadvantaged pupil intakes, it is crucial that government resources are put into their retention. This would help manage teacher supply in these schools and would also reduce the negative impact of high staff turnover on the outcomes of disadvantaged children.”
The report suggests that the schools watchdog, Ofsted, should evaluate the mix of diversity among the pupils, teachers and senior leaders in a school. There should also be a greater focus on the progression of BAME teachers into leadership roles, and all staff allegations of racism should be investigated and reported, it adds.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The teaching workforce is becoming more diverse – the data shows positive trends over recent years – but we know there is further to go. We made diversity a feature of our recruitment and retention strategy and are continuing to develop programmes that will support teachers from diverse backgrounds.”