Most English School Kids Will Only Ever Be Taught By White Teachers

There aren't enough teachers of colour in the UK (and it's not for want of applications).
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There’s a “high probability” that students in English state schools will never being taught by a teacher who is not white.

That’s according to a new report on racial equality in education that has found six in 10 English state secondary schools have an all-white teaching staff, while nearly seven in 10 primary schools have only white teachers.

Every ethnic group except for white teachers was found to be under-represented at all stages of the teaching career, apart from during teacher training. This is even though teaching hopefuls from Asian, Black and other ethnic backgrounds were over-represented in applications for training.

“There is no shortage of interest in joining the profession among these groups,” the report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said.

Teachers from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds are under-represented at every other stage of the profession from newly-qualified teacher (NQT) through to headteacher, compared to their representation in the general population in 2021, the report found.

At senior leadership levels and headships the disparity is most pronounced with 96% of heads coming from white backgrounds, compared to 83% of the wider population. It notes that 86% of state schools have an all-white senior leadership team and 60% have an all-white teaching staff.

“Although secondary schools have a more diverse teaching staff than primary schools, children entering school today have a high probability of rarely or never being taught by a teacher from an Asian, Black, mixed or other ethnic minority group,” the report said.

Michaela Lawson, who is the founder of Prosperity Project, an anti-racist training organisation for schools says if children of colour don’t see themselves represented in schools they won’t feel that it’s a profession they can enter.

“Children can only be what they see,” she tells HuffPost UK. “People of colour in schools tend to only be in the lowest paid positions, so teaching assistants, site staff and admin staff.”

Lawson believes having more teachers of colour in schools is also important so that children feel comfortable reporting any incidents of racism that occur.

“Often, students don’t feel comfortable going to white teachers, when they have those negative experiences,” she says.

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When Lawson was a primary school teacher, she says children would report these experiences to her because they knew she could empathise with them.

“When I was in school there was one child who I was having an intervention with,” she recalls. “The first thing he said to me was. “Miss, you have the same hair as me.” And this was a mixed race child who was going through an identity crisis. It shows that he felt like we had a shared experience.”

A lack of teachers of colour can also feed into a lack of representation in the curriculum, Lawson says.

The NFER report also stressed there were “significant disparities” in career progression for non-white teachers from one career stage to the next, with the most serious disparities seen in initial teacher training.

According to its report, the rate of acceptance rates on to teacher training courses were nine points lower for applicants from mixed ethnic backgrounds, 13% lower for applicants from Asian backgrounds and 21% lower for applicants from Black and other ethnic backgrounds compared with acceptance rates for white applicants.

Though there are more teachers from non-white backgrounds in London, the report also shows that “the gaps between the rates of promotion to senior leadership of middle leaders from Black ethnic backgrounds and their white counterparts are significantly wider in London than they are nationally.”

The report highlights this is “particularly important” given demographic differences between the regions – 62% of teachers from Black ethnic backgrounds work in London.

And it found that volunteer governors from white backgrounds were over-represented – a concern given their importance in decision-making in schools.

While the NFER highlights the need for more teachers of colour at all levels in schools, Lawson is hesitant to urge more Black teachers into the profession, when many wouldn’t be going into safe spaces.

“The culture of a school can be quite negative and that’s actually why there’s such high turnover. [Teachers] experience the micro-aggressions and racism that students do, too,” Lawson tells HuffPost UK.

“There’s a lot of racial battle fatigue that isn’t talked about, in terms of them coming across lots of issues in the school and, and no one is supporting them or understands them.”

She also stresses how many Black teachers are faced with the burden of leading diversity and inclusion initiatives. “The onus shouldn’t be on those teachers it should be on anyone who’s willing to engage with,” she adds.

“And that’s why in our organisation, we talk about racial literacy as more important. Even white students can be racially literate and want to engage in those conversations – and they can lead those initiatives,” Lawson says.

Help and support:

  • Tell MAMA supports victims of anti-Muslim hate.
  • Young Minds offers information on racism and mental health for younger people.
  • SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) provides help to victims of hate.
  • Stop Hate UK works to challenge all forms of hate.