Ethnic minority teachers: some progress, but where are we heading?

In the autumn of 1997 the new Labour government held three conferences designed to raise awareness about the need to recruit more teachers from ethnic minority groups. Over the following 15 years the TTA, and its successor the TDA, continually tried to encourage more recruits into teaching from among students with an ethnic minority background. Their success was mixed. As the following table shows, students from a White background were more likely to be accepted into teaching than were those students from minority backgrounds, at least as far as courses for graduates to train as a teacher were concerned.

Applications and acceptances by ethnic grouping – UK domicile UK degree 2007-2010
Ethnic Group



% accepted

% of the total accepted
























Source: The Author

As a result, it has been estimated that if there were thee hundred graduate would-be teachers; 100 each from the Asian, Black and White groupings:  24 of the white group, 14 of the Asian group, and just nine of the Black group would be likely to fulfil their aspiration of teaching in a state funded school classroom. Even in the sciences, where shortages have been the greatest, out of three hundred would-be science teachers there would be 34 White teachers, 17 Asian teachers and 11 Black teachers.

This suggests that is a need to understand why this discrepancy between the groups arises, especially so since with School Direct decisions now being made at the level of the individual schools.  There is evidence that even when students from an ethnic minority have gained QTS they find it more of a challenge to secure a teaching post.

A second concern is that when ethnic minorities do secure teaching posts they tend to do so in areas where there are large numbers of pupils from ethnic minorities in the schools. A study of the 2012 School Workforce Survey revealed 115 schools where two thirds or more of their teaching staff were from ethnic minority groups. Overwhelmingly, these schools were in London. Of the 31 local authority areas with at least one school that had two thirds or greater ethnic minority staff, 23 were London Boroughs, and only Birmingham among the other eight authorities outside of London had more than two schools where the staffroom was comprised of more than two thirds ethnic minority teachers. The London Borough of Brent had by far the largest number of schools; 28 in all that met the two-thirds criteria. Many of these schools, along with those in other authorities, were primary schools, including the school I attended for six years as a primary age pupil, but there were some secondary school in the list.  The other London Boroughs with more than five schools with high concentrations of staff from ethnic minorities included; Ealing; Hackney; Lambeth; Newham; Tower Hamlets and Haringey.

This concentration of teachers from ethnic minorities in a small number of schools raises the issue of whether this might increasingly create schools that are monocultural in nature, and whether this is desirable in a multi-cultural society? Outside of the big cities, teachers from ethnic minorities are probably far rarer sights for white pupils than the Asian corner-shop and the Chinese, Thai or Bangladeshi Restaurant.  Can this developing divide be healthy for society?

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