I go to hundreds of universities, colleges and training centres and meet thousands of student and new teachers, but hardly anywhere do I see a proportion of BME students and new teachers that reflects the diversity of modern Britain.
This may not be a statistically valid perception but it’s what I see, and I see a lot of students at a lot of training providers.
Given that the proportion of BME people in the population as a whole is about 9%, one would expect to see around that proportion entering the teaching profession each year – at least one would hope so. Indeed one might argue that the target should be set higher given that the national proportion of BME pupils in school is currently about 15%.
Just to give you an example of the last few weeks, I’ve been to five towns and cities in England with large BME profiles. In one place, I spoke to about 45 students of whom 5 were from ‘visible minority’ backgrounds – that’s not bad I suppose. But at another there were over 70 new teachers, and only four visible minorities. In a third, a large city, there were over 200 students who were about to become teachers and there was not a single black or minority ethnic face in the audience.
Are BME young people not interested in becoming teachers?
Is teaching not perceived as an aspirational profession by BME communities?
Are BME teaching applicants somehow disadvantaged in the increasingly competitive selection criteria?
Are BME students and teachers meeting racism in teaching that isn’t apparent in other professions?
There are many questions but answers are frustratingly patchy. For example, we know how many BME students are entering the profession but don’t know accurately how many teachers currently define themselves as BME. Some researchers have estimated the total is less than 4% out of a teaching population of over 500,000.
And then there are other issues for BME teachers that need considering – like career progression, access to cpd, promotion opportunities and seniority.
And what about the other minorities in teaching?
Men for a start…
What’s your take on this?
Alan Newland worked as a teacher and headteacher in London for over 20 years and as a teacher trainer and then for the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) is published in February 2014.