Ethnic minorities will continue to be under-represented in schools’ senior leadership teams unless recruitment, selection and promotion processes are improved and leaders are supported to make ‘equitable’ workforce decisions, a report has found.
Research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), in partnership with education charities Ambition Institute and Teach First, found that middle leaders from Asian backgrounds are three percentage points less likely to be promoted into a senior leadership role than their white counterparts, while black middle leaders are four percentage points less likely.
Some 96% of headteachers are from white ethnic backgrounds, compared to 83% of the wider population. In contrast, ethnic minority groups other than white are underrepresented among headteachers by 60% (mixed ethnic group), 75%(black ethnic group), 83% (Asian ethnic group) and 88% (other ethnic group), compared to their proportions in the wider population.
The report finds that ethnic disparities in teacher retention rates are smaller in schools with diverse school leadership teams and larger in schools with all-white leadership teams.
All ethnic groups except white are under-represented at all career stages of the teaching profession, except for initial teacher training (ITT). For example, in 2021, 12% of ITT applicants were from Asian ethnic backgrounds, compared to 10% in the population as a whole .
Yet, many do not get accepted onto these courses. The acceptance rate is 13 percentage points lower for applicants from Asian ethnic backgrounds than white applicants, and 21 percentage points lower for applicants from black and other ethnic backgrounds.
The report concludes that the education sector needs to make racial equality a priority and address systemic disparities.
It recommends that:
- training providers eview their application and selection processes to to pinpoint the extent, nature and causes of the lower acceptance rates experienced by ethnic minority applicants
- training providers, multi-academy trusts and other large educational organisations commit to publishing data on diversity and act to address disparities
- the government monitors progress across the system towards equalising the opportunities for progression
for people from all ethnic groups
- further research is needed into regional disparities in the representation and progression of teachers from different ethnic backgrounds.
Sufian Sadiq, director of teaching school, Chiltern Learning Trust, said: “Teacher recruitment and retention has been an ongoing crisis within our sector for a number of years. Yet in this report, we see evidence of interest in teaching – from black and ethnic minority candidates – and a pool of potential talent that is not currently being tapped. Addressing the racial disparities that exist within teaching is therefore not only a moral imperative, but increasingly necessary if we want to tackle teacher supply problems, and ensure every child has a qualified teacher standing before them.
“The positive number of applicants from ethnic minority communities shows that the issues and challenges around diversity in teaching are systemic, and not down to a lack of interest or something we can shift onto those from under-represented groups. The report highlights to me that the onus is on organisations in all points in the career pipeline to take responsibility and act now.”
NFER’s school workforce lead, Jack Worth, said: “Our report shows that we currently do not have a teacher workforce that reflects the ethnic makeup of wider society and that opportunities to enter and progress within the teaching profession are not equal.
“The evidence in the report adds detailed and analytical insights into where ethnic disparities in progression within the teacher career pipeline are greatest, which will support the sector to make improvements and lasting changes in the areas where they are most needed.”