NFER: Bursaries could help non-white teachers become heads

Diversity report finds four times as many teachers of colour would need to be promoted to heads for workforce to be representative

Diversity report finds four times as many teachers of colour would need to be promoted to heads for workforce to be representative

Bursaries to help non-white teachers get on the leadership ladder and a specific teacher training route for those without required qualifications could be considered to boost workforce diversity, a new report has suggested.

The ‘ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce’ evidence review, published by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER), states “people of colour are considerably under-represented in the teaching workforce, especially among school leaders”.

The report found around 60 per cent of schools in England had all-white teaching staff in 2021-22, with 86 per cent having an all-white senior leadership team.

Katherine Aston, Research Manager at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said the “message from the research was clear. Teachers of colour report being socially excluded, stereotyped, rejected for promotions or professional development, and experience overt racism.”

She said four times as many teachers of colour would need to be promoted to headteacher positions – around 2,500 more – for the role to become representative of the wider population.

Meanwhile, non-white teachers are less likely to be accepted onto teacher training than their white counterparts, NFER research published in 2022 found.

Today’s report, funded by Mission 44, a charitable foundation launched by Sir Lewis Hamilton, sets out recommendations to tackle the issue.

NFER said interventions in initial teacher training (ITT) “must be a priority” due to the acceptance rates gap.

They called for an investigation into the disparity and strategies to combat it, with all teacher trainers to implement equality, diversity and inclusion policies.

All ITT programmes should also include content on anti-racism as part of their curriculum “to raise awareness of the issues among all trainees and to support trainee teachers of colour”.

Another proposal is to offer an “alternative pathway” for non-white people without the required qualifications to enter training.

‘Catalyst for change’

Meanwhile in school leadership, the academics called for school “selection panels for senior posts to include people of colour” and training, support networks and tailored mentoring. 

“There may be a need for bursaries to enable teachers of colour, especially those from socio-economically deprived backgrounds, to undertake leadership development”, the report added.

The report also criticised the lack of “specific government targets, programmes or funding in England to improve the ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce”, calling for change.

They highlighted Scotland has committed to achieving representative ethnic diversity among teachers by 2030.

Schools Week revealed in 2020 the Department for Education axed millions of pounds of funding for its teacher diversity hubs scheme in a move branded “disgraceful”.

Jason Arthur, chief executive at Mission 44, said: “By highlighting the key barriers and enablers to a more diverse education system, it is our hope this report acts as a catalyst for change.”

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The under-representation of teachers from Black communities in the workforce has been discussed many times without being effectively addressed.

“In the midst of a deepening crisis of recruitment and retention, these are issues that the government should not be overlooking.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teaching should be an inclusive profession as accomplished teachers, regardless of background, provide positive role models and shape the lives of young people.

“There are now record numbers of teachers in our schools, up by 27,000 since 2010 which has been achieved through a range of initiatives including the introduction of tax free bursaries and scholarships worth up to £30,000.

“The proportion of teachers as well as leaders who identify as belonging to an ethnic minority group have both increased by around four percentage points since 2010.”

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  1. Patrick Obikwu

    The stark under-representation of non-white educators in school leadership and headship positions stands as a glaring critique of the educational system, carrying profound implications for our society. This issue goes beyond mere statistics; it reflects systemic challenges that hinder the professional growth of non-white educators and perpetuate a culture of pernicious racism.
    Armed with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry (1986), an Advanced Certificate in Sports Training and Fitness, UK QTS (Science), a Postgraduate Certificate in Development Education and Global Learning, and an MA in Education Leadership, my educational journey spans over two decades. Despite my unwavering commitment and effectiveness as a science teacher in a challenging inner-city secondary school, the road to leadership proved obstructed by endemic racism. Despite producing excellent results in my subject area, contributing to students’ positive transformations, and engaging in a spectrum of extracurricular activities, promotion opportunities remained elusive. After a dedicated 14-year tenure, I eventually left in 2015.
    Over the next six years, my persistence in education was met with continuous roadblocks, leading to my final departure in 2022. It became painfully evident that the entire educational system operated with biases that hindered the progress of individuals like me.
    The departure of experienced educators, particularly those who have dedicated decades to shaping young minds, represents a significant loss for society. The wealth of knowledge, dedication, and passion that individuals like me bring to the education ecosystem should not be squandered.
    Despite the challenges, my desire to contribute to education remains fervent. However, I am compelled to return only at the level of vice principal or deputy head, with a specific focus on fostering positive behaviour, character development, and academic achievement. This is not just a personal aspiration; it is a call for a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape that recognizes and values the contributions of educators from diverse backgrounds. The return of individuals with rich experiences and a commitment to positive change can only enhance the educational experience for all.

    • Rubina Darr

      I wholeheartedly agree with Patrick. As a person of colour and an under represented female gender, my journey too was painful, however persistence prevailed and I managed to secure headship at the age of 45.
      However there is little regard for supporting me in my quest to grow our successful MAT.
      At some point the system needs to address the well- being support that is also needed to help under represented groups climb the ladder of leadership success without it affecting mental health.
      Growing in strength, needs great mentoring as people try to run rings around leaders who are already marginalised.
      I am interested in the MATs growing their leaders from these groups and the journey they have had.
      I know many people of colour who have been driven from their positions because of racism in the workplace with managers/ leaders doing nothing about the poor behaviours exhibited and no courage to call this out within the teams they lead.
      Poor behaviours are perpetuated time and time again, I too spoke out and was denied a leadership position many years ago and I too would have left!!
      However I have done well and want to do the best for anyone who comes on my radar!!