Investigation: diversity of education leadership roles fails to improve despite DfE pledge


The proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) leaders of England’s largest academy trusts has fallen, with 98 per cent of the top chains now run by white bosses.

A Schools Week analysis of the 98 trusts with 15 or more schools suggests just two chief executives are from BAME backgrounds.

It is not enough to say what we are doing is not racist – we have to be anti-racist

When we conducted a similar investigation two years ago, we found that two of the 72 trusts with 15 or more schools were headed by a non-white boss.

But while the number of trusts of this size has increased by more than a third, the same two chief executives remain the only BAME leaders: Clive Webster of the Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership and Hamid Patel of Star Academies, who are black and Asian respectively.

The stalled progress on improving diversity in the top jobs comes despite a government pledge two years ago to “increase the proportion of public sector leaders from an ethnic minority background, so that the public sector workforce is fully representative of the communities it serves”.

Patel, whose trust runs 28 schools, said: “Our schools and young people deserve the best, most talented, leaders – regardless of their ethnicity and gender.”

He added “wider representation and diversity at senior level isn’t just an issue for MATs, but across the school system as a whole, and it isn’t an issue confined solely to BAME”.

More women, Afro-Caribbean and white working-class men and women were needed in senior leadership roles, he said, “so that leaders reflect the school workforce”.

According to the government’s 2018 school teacher workforce, 92.9 per cent of all headteachers and 85.1 per cent of classroom teachers in England were white British.


Diversity an issue across the sector

Our study also found just one director of education or equivalent post at the country’s 20 largest councils is held by someone from an ethic-minority background – one more than in our study two years ago.

Furthermore, across the Department for Education, Ofsted and Ofqual, 97 per cent of those listed in the “our management” sections of their websites are white (see box out).

On May 25 George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill.

The killing sparked worldwide outrage across the globe.

Patel said Floyd’s death brought three key areas “into sharp focus”: diversity at board level, a trust’s culture and the need to develop talented teachers from under-represented groups.

Allana Gay, a headteacher and co-founder of the BAMEed Network, added: “When looking at the context of what is going on in wider society, it is not enough to say what we are doing is not racist – we have to be anti-racist.”

This meant it was not enough for the government to say “we have pathways” for those from BAME backgrounds to progress to leadership.

Instead, the Department for Education must “actively encourage” and “find the people to access the pathways”.

The department published a “statement of intent on the diversity of the teaching workforce” in October 2018. That included a £2 million pledge to fund diversity hubs supporting aspiring leaders into headship.

A department spokesperson said it was “committed to increasing the diversity of the teaching workforce” and “improved pathways into the profession, increasing the proportion of teacher trainees from minority ethnic groups”.

In 2019-20, 19 per cent of postgraduate entrants were from a BAME background, compared with just 12 per cent in 2013-14.

The DfE was unable to share figures on the hubs as they are “not in the public domain”.

However, Gay said there were still “no programmes in place to target BAME educators into CEO or higher level positions”. As a result, trusts continued to hire white men as “that is what they believe a leader looks like”.

It’s also not just an issue confined to education.

BAME people made up 20.7 per cent of all NHS staff, however they account for just seven per cent of people in the “very senior manager grade”.

Meanwhile a 2017 study found just six per cent of management jobs in the UK are held by ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile the gender divide had closed slightly.

Of the 98 largest trusts, 28 per cent (27) were led by women. That’s up from two years ago when 19 of the 72 trust bosses were female, but is only an increase of two percentage points.

Women make up 75 per cent of the teacher workforce, but only 67 per cent of heads are women.

Sameena Choudry, the co-founder of WomenEd, said: “We have an archaic male, pale leadership team, which is not reflective of the pupil populations and the communities we serve.”


A note on method

The government does not publish ethnicity or gender statistics for academy chief executives.

So, as in our previous analysis, we’ve done this through examining photos plus names, and where we thought it necessary, contacting the person in question.

We think we’ve managed to arrive at a good estimate but, as always, we are happy to be corrected if we have made a mistake.

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  1. Dear Mr Carr,
    I read your article in Schools Week with keen interest.
    I am currently embarking on a PhD into the demise of the black senior leader. Just a quick question: why do you think the government is hesitant to report on the numbers of BAME heads teachers in academies? I believe that it could be due to the fact that the numbers would be even more alarming than in state schoo