Asians shun teaching: Experts


by NADEEM BADSHAH 

MINISTERS are failing to do enough to attract British Asians to teaching after new figures revealed they continue to shun the profession, unions and campaigners said.

Just 0.6 per cent of teachers were of Bangladeshi origin in 2018 with the community representing 0.8 per cent of the overall working age population in the UK, the government data showed.

And only 1.2 per cent in the profession are of Pakistani heritage with the community making up two per cent of the total working population.

The figure was 1.9 per cent among people of Indian origin with the community making up three per cent of the overall working population.

The numbers are a tiny increase on 2017 when 0.5 per cent of teachers were British Bangladeshi and 1.1 per cent from a Pakistani background. But for teachers of Indian origin the percentage has stayed the same.

White British teachers in state schools accounted for 85.9 per cent, far higher than the proportion they make up of the overall working population of 78.5 per cent.

Kishan Devani, vice-president of the Liberal Democrats Campaign for Race Equality, told Eastern Eye:  “As a former teacher, former director of a Special Educational Needs school and director of an international school and college, these figures worry me deeply.

“The figures indicate a trend not only in teaching in schools, but also in colleges and universities, that BAME communities are lagging behind in their representation in these fields.

“This is partly due to the teaching profession not being well promoted amongst BAME communities as a viable career option.

“The second issue is the government has not carried out specific drives, like the Armed Forces have regularly been doing, in trying to attract BAME youth – the government should look at implementing a focused BAME teacher recruitment drive to attract more BAME youth into the profession.

“The cutting of teaching bursaries for certain subjects and lack of funding in the profession in general has also meant many do not see teaching as a viable career option. This is a matter of huge regret.”

The Department for Education data published in January also showed that for every ethnic group, there were more female than male teachers.

And among the 22,400 headteachers in England, just 300 were of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin.

Among the 49,500 deputy or assistant headteachers, 1100 were from an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi background.

Teachers union NASUWT said despite it consistently highlighting this issue, it has seen little or no improvement in the representation of teachers from BAME groups.

Chris Keates, the union’s acting general secretary, told Eastern Eye: “The latest data published by the government should be a wake-up call, confirming the need for urgent action to advance racial equality in schools.

“The NASUWT’s leading conference for black and minority ethnic teachers has confirmed over a number of years how racial discrimination, prejudice and harassment at work are major barriers to the employment, career progression and promotion prospects of Black and Asian teachers.

“Attention is also needed to address the even more acute under-representation of black and minority ethnic teachers who are employed as headteachers and senior leaders in schools.

“There is no evidence that black and Asian teachers lack the ambition to progress or to succeed. However, we are increasingly concerned the government and some employers are simply paying lip-service on workforce equality matters.”

Some 54 per cent of teachers from minority-ethnic groups experienced racism in schools in 2019, according to a recent poll by NASUWT.

And more than a third (37 per cent) think the problem has worsened in classrooms.

Harmander Singh, a former school governor and inspector for education watchdog Ofsted, said: “These concerns are legitimate but many in the community need to apply first, you cant drag people into it.

“You do need role models in every profession.

“Parents need to encourage their kids to become teachers instead of doctors and accountants in the past.

“I do agree more could be done, there are alarming examples of a ‘colonial type of view’ looking at ethnic minorities.

“Teachers are leaving the profession for a range of reasons including tick box exercises, the amount of paperwork and stress caused by micromanagement by the state.”

In response to the figures, a Department for Education spokesman said: “We are committed to increasing the diversity of the teaching workforce in England and work with a range of organisations, such as Ambition Institute, BAMEed and National Association of Head Teachers to achieve this.

“We also provide grant funding to schools through our Equality and Diversity fund, in order to support the progression of under-represented teachers at all levels.”