Diversity in the teaching profession has been at the front of the education news agenda this year, most notably when the NFER published its ‘Racial equality in the Teacher Workforce’ research. The report highlighted significant issues from ITT application and all the way through their careers for people of non-white backgrounds.
The most significant disparities, the report highlighted, occur at the very start, “where people from Asian, black, mixed and other ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to be accepted to an ITT course than their white counterparts”. Racial disparity manifests in retention figures too, with teachers from minority ethnic background less likely to stay in the profession or progress to leadership.
We’ve taken to heart the message that you can’t be what you can’t see, and we know that as a trusted news organisation we must be part of the solution. So we take seriously our responsibility to represent (and as much as possible over-represent) teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in our pages.
It’s pleasing, therefore, that we have managed to sustain last year’s doubling of BAME representation among our expert contributors. At 22 per cent of our commissioned content, this over-represents Black and minority-ethnic teachers by 50 per cent, and equally over-represents the proportion of the total national working-age population with BAME backgrounds. The same is now true of our front pages too, which have seen a four percentage point increase this year in the number of non-White faces featured there.
The focus of our content is naturally on leadership, and among school leaders only seven per cent are from ethnic-minority backgrounds. So when it comes to showing the profession what it can be, we are playing our part – featuring three times more ethnic-minority leaders and opinion makers than occupy headteachers’ offices today.
But the lack of diversity in school leadership is reflected in our pages and continues to pose us a problem. When it comes to profiles, we have stagnated this year at 12 per cent of those focusing on non-White school and system leaders. That’s still more than the proportion of heads from BAME backgrounds, but still less than the proportion of minority-ethnic teachers.
We want to see that number increase, and we know that it won’t do to say that it has to increase in the profession before it can increase in our pages. So our work continues, to connect with the aspirational teachers and middle leaders and the inspirational heads overcoming the systemic challenges that keep BAME colleagues out of the profession and away from progression.
Meanwhile, our representation of women continues to grow. They make up two percentage points more of the faces on our front pages, two percentage points more of our expert contributors and ten percentage points more of our profile interviewees. But while these numbers over-represent women as a proportion of the total national workforce, they still lag behind a profession that is still overwhelmingly female – in the classroom and in headship.
We have also heard the message from women in the profession about confidence and about balancing the demands of work and life. So as commissioning editor, let me reassure you that I am here to see you on to the page. You don’t need to be ten per cent braver to reach out to me, and I will do my utmost to make seeing your opinion in our paper as easy as possible.