It’s not just Black people either, it’s just as true with most minority ethnic groups. There is not much research done on this (curiously) but the most recent research I’ve come across suggests that there is still less than 5% of teachers nationally in the UK that are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME). Yet the country (by the last census in 2011) is over 9% BME and the school-age population is around 14% BME.
That’s not all – you only have to go round the country as I do, and you’ll see that most of that 5% of BME teachers are concentrated in places like London and the West Midlands – so that leaves large areas of the country with very few (if any) BME teachers at all.
I don’t think I need to explain why this is a problem. Of course it is. All kids of all ethnicities need good role models as teachers from every background, ethnicity, religion, culture and from both genders too.
Some black and Asian colleagues tell me that “teaching is not a high status profession in their community.” If that’s true I am both confused and dismayed by that, largely because I know that teachers are highly regarded and respected in (particularly first generation) Caribbean, African and Asian communities. So why not teaching?
But what are we doing about it? Some people are doing precious little as far as I can see. I go to teacher training centres both large and small in every part of England. I go to some large universities in our biggest cities with enormous cohorts of trainee teachers and see only a handful of BME trainees – usually I can count them on the fingers of one hand. Yet in the 1990s when I taught at (what was then) the University of North London (now London Met), we pioneered Access courses to teaching in areas of high BME concentration, we advertised teaching as a profession in the BME press and media, we even designed a PGCE course that targeted people who spoke a second language to target those with bilingual skills. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Take a look at this video. This small school-based training provider in east London has both the will and the way – and not only that, the candidates and trainees are excellent too.
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching professionalism and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk and book him for a talk. His book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.