At a time when so much has been written about the importance of a diverse workforce, where does it leave institutions closer to home?
Take for example under- representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) teachers in leadership positions. An astonishing 92.9% of headteachers are white British. A meagre 0.2% of Headteachers and 0.4% of Deputy and Assistant Headteachers are Black African. Representation is no better for other ethnic groups. The extent of the problem varies across the country.
In one borough I looked into, only 22% of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) are from a BAME background. This might sound like a lot. It isn’t. 66.8% of the secondary school student population in the borough are from a British Bangladeshi background. Compare that to the percentage of white British children; 6.3% (Source: School Census 2017). There’s clearly a disconnect between the two sets of data. Could that be because of a lack of BAME representation in the classroom? Not so. The proportion of teachers from minority ethnic groups in the borough (i.e. non-White British) stands at 48%.
The data looks worse when you break it down school by school. In one school, which has an all-white SLT, roughly half of all the teachers listed on the website are from a minority ethnic background. Shocking, when put into context the community it serves. So why is it that schools across the country lack a fair representation of people from minority backgrounds in leadership positions?
A bias exists – Headteachers would rather appoint people who look and think like them. A glass ceiling exists for ethnic minority teachers. The black teacher ‘looks aggressive’ mentality permeates in our communities. Governors and Headteachers hold an irrational fear of ethnic minorities. What if, they hold extremist views?
BAME teachers are thought of as passionate people in the classroom, committed to the cause of delivering a better future for our kids, but never quite good enough for leadership positions. Where BAME staff do get promoted, they are told to pursue pastoral positions such as the Head of a Year group. There are disproportionate numbers of people being told to pursue this route. They are not given the challenging roles that come with more responsibility.
I recently came into contact with the Principle of a Multi Academy Trust. He became defensive when I raised the issue of under-representation of BAME teachers in leadership position. Surely the point is that our kids get a good quality education? Yes. But the point also, is that our kids see hard-work and talent getting rewarded regardless of the colour of skin, gender, religion, sexuality, beliefs.
Schools should be leading the fight against inequality and racism. If this is going to be the case, then Headteachers have a responsibility to get their houses in order. The solution is simple – they need to promote more BAME teachers to their team.