Schools need 68,000 extra BME teachers to reflect population – BBC News

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Image caption Figures show 27% of pupils at state-funded schools come from a BME background

An extra 68,000 teachers from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds need to be recruited to reflect England’s school population, figures show.

Just 13% of state-funded schools’ teachers are currently from a BME background, compared to 27% of pupils.

Teaching union, the NASUWT says ethnic minority teachers “face discrimination and prejudice when applying for jobs”.

The government says there has been an increasing number of BME teachers joining the profession in recent years.

Department for Education (DfE) figures for 2016 show that of 510,000 state-funded teachers, 68,000 were drawn from an ethnic minority background.

Analysing the data, BBC News found the number of BME teachers would need to double to accurately reflect the ethnic make-up of the state school pupil population in England.

Ethnic minority teachers say young people from a similar background have historically preferred to enter other professions such as medicine or science.

“Teaching was never on my radar when I was younger,” says Tayyab Ditta, a teacher in Leeds.

“A lack of BME teachers meant I had no role models so I never envisaged becoming a teacher. I remember seeing people from my community who’d become successful doctors or engineers but I never saw someone who was a teacher and that is a barrier we need to break down.”

Image copyright BBC News
Image caption Tayyab Ditta, a teacher in Leeds, says more needs to be done to attract BME people into teaching

Janet Sheriff is the only BME secondary school head teacher in Leeds, an area where nearly 30% of children are from an ethnic minority.

“This is an enormous challenge for the whole education system. It’s vitally important that as our communities become more multicultural our schools reflect the areas where our children grow up,” she said.

“I do feel that when schools appoint teachers, there is an unconscious bias where white teachers are often the preferred candidate.”

Government figures show the proportion of BME teachers in England rose from 11.6% in 2012, to 13.4% in 2016.

Despite the increase, a recent report from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) warned BME teachers still faced “deep-rooted, endemic and institutional racism”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “BME teachers are, on average, paid less than their peers, commonly face discrimination and prejudice when applying for jobs.

“Schools and pupils are losing out on the talents and skills of BME teachers who are unable to advance their careers or who opt for a different profession due to the barriers being placed in their way. We cannot afford to continue to let this happen.”

Analysing the government’s data, BBC News found that only one local authority area in England has proportionally more teachers than pupils from an ethnic minority background.

In 2016, 4.7% of teachers in Halton, Cheshire, were BME compared to 4.5% of pupils.

The London borough of Westminster had the greatest imbalance with 37.9% of teachers being from an ethnic minority compared to 85% of pupils.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “There has been a steady increase in the proportion of minority ethnic groups starting teacher training and in the teaching profession in recent years.

“We also provide a range of support to teachers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds such as the Leadership, Equality and Diversity Fund. This fund supports schools to increase the representation of BME teachers in senior leadership roles as well as providing coaching and mentoring for BME teachers.”

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