A government decision to axe millions of pounds of funding for teacher diversity schemes has been branded “disgraceful”.
Since 2014, the Department for Education’s equality and diversity fund has supported schools to develop solutions to help teachers of protected characteristics progress into leadership.
Under the Equality Act 2010, these protected characteristics are; age, disability, gender, reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Eight regional hub lead schools allocate funding to school-led projects throughout their area, Schools Week understands hubs receive up to £250,000 to dish out over two years.
On its website, the DfE states the funding “reinforces the government’s commitment to increasing the diversity of school leadership and maximising the number of leaders available by raising aspirations and the chances of successful promotion among people with leadership potential”.
The DfE confirmed it has invested £2 million into the diversity hubs between 2018 and 2020.
Funding for the next round of projects was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this week regional hubs were told the funding would be scrapped all together.
In emails sent to hub leaders, and seen by Schools Week, the DfE states: “Current programmes under the Equality and Diversity Fund, delayed from the summer as a result of Covid-19 will end in December 2020 and beyond this, DfE has taken the decision not to proceed with a further round of E&D Hubs.”
The email goes on to say the DfE “continually reviews programmes to ensure they continue to address sector needs” and is “ is currently exploring other strategies for supporting teacher workforce development”.
Arv Kaushal, of Challney High School for Girls is the programme lead for the ‘BAME into Leadership’ programme in North-west London and south central England. He told Schools Week: “We understand there are budgetary constraints and everybody’s having to tighten up… it gives a very clear message about where the priorities lie.
“Our thoughts have always been this shouldn’t be a luxury item – why is it considered a luxury that some of those people are never going to reach those places of leadership?”
In 2018, the DfE related a statement of intent on the diversity of the teaching workforce in which it highlighted women and ethnic minority teachers were under-represented at senior levels, pledging it wanted to see “a teaching profession that prides itself on promoting a diverse workforce”.
According to the government’s 2018 school teacher workforce census, 92.9 per cent of all headteachers and 85.1 per cent of classroom teachers in England were white British. Women make up 75 per cent of the teacher workforce, but only 67 per cent of heads are women.
Meanwhile a Schools Week investigation earlier this year found 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.
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.
Kaushal added: “If you think about the original remit of it and the reason why they felt a need for it, that need hasn’t changed. If anything that need has been exposed even more, from that point of view it makes no sense to cut the funding”.
On Twitter, Alison Kriel, a former trust chief executive and WomenEd member, said she was “appalled” by the cuts.
Former headteacher Kate Smith branded the decision “disgraceful. Identify the need and then take away the funding to support it. Fortunately there are incredible educators that will continue this agenda in their schools.”
Earlier this month it was revealed the government had pulled funding for school projects which tackle the bullying on LGBT pupils.
The BBC revealed the government ended its funding of LGBT anti-bullying initiatives last March despite other programmes funded through the Government Equalities Office being extended and given further support.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We keep our programmes under continuous review to ensure they best address the needs of schools and teachers, and are continuing to develop programmes that will support teachers from diverse backgrounds.”