Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director, Business in the Community
I recently came across some shocking data from the Department for Education’s annual School Census on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) headteachers from different backgrounds. They showed that 97.3% of head teachers are white, whilst for BAME groups just 0.2% of headteachers are from a Black African background and 0.3% are Pakistani. For Indian and Black Caribbean head teachers, the figures weren’t much higher at 0.7% and 0.6% respectively.
These stark figures throw the gaps in the BAME talent pipeline in teaching into sharp focus. Our Race at the Top report found that there is a significant gap between the number of BAME teachers (6.7%) and BAME representation in the general population (12.4%), but this further breakdown by ethnicity highlights that there are still real issues with progressing all BAME groups within the teaching profession. Throw in changing demographics – one in three primary school children now comes from a BAME background – and we could have a perfect storm where schools do not reflect the communities they serve.
Developing a strong pipeline which enables BAME teachers to progress into senior roles is absolutely vital; simply focusing on leadership is no longer enough
“ Developing a strong pipeline which enables BAME teachers to progress into senior roles is absolutely vital; simply focusing on leadership is no longer enough ”
For this reason, developing a strong pipeline which enables BAME teachers to progress into senior roles is absolutely vital; simply focusing on leadership is no longer enough. At the Race for Opportunity Awards judging panels this week, the message that kept consistently coming back was that progressing and retaining BAME talent is absolutely crucial for success. This is particularly true in a sector like education, where the existing pool of BAME employees is still woefully small and schools cannot afford high attrition rates of teachers. However, there are a number of ways to address this, one of which is increased access to coaching.
We know from our Gender and Race Benchmark that BAME people are less likely to be identified as ‘high potential’ or rated in the top two performance categories than their white counterparts, which means they often lose out on opportunities to support their progress at work, including coaching. The National Union of Teachers has also found that applicants to its programme for mid-level leadership were more likely to be accepted if they had a coach. If BAME teachers aren’t getting this coaching, then their opportunities to progress are likely to be restricted.
BAME people are less likely to be identified as ‘high potential’ or rated in the top two performance categories than their white counterparts.
“ BAME people are less likely to be identified as ‘high potential’ or rated in the top two performance categories than their white counterparts. ”
There have been some positive efforts in increasing BAME representation in teaching such as Teach First, who won the Race for Opportunity Recruiting Diverse Talent Award in 2013 for their work on increasing BAME applicants to their teacher training programme. It’s a good start, but we need more than that to move to the next stage – and increased access to coaching could be one solution. Employers must encourage BAME staff to take up formal and informal career development opportunities such as coaching, and monitor who is taking up these opportunities and progressing into leadership roles in order to address any gaps. But if we’re going to make BAME teachers visible candidates for the top jobs, schools must have these approaches on their radar.
A pool of diverse teachers for role models is also needed to inspire the next generation – both in their own careers and to enter the teaching profession. Our ‘Aspiration and Frustration’ report found that the education sector struggles to attract BAME candidates, with a lack of opportunities to progress among the main reasons why BAME young people are not entering the sector. Therefore, it’s vital that schools are thinking about progression as part of their attraction strategy. There is a lot to do around encouraging people from all backgrounds to enter teaching, but ensuring that they are able to make the best use of their talent – including career progression – will form a key part of making sure schools reflect the communities they operate in.