Celebrating Diversity

Twenty years ago this autumn, the then Teacher Training Agency (TTA) launched an advertising campaign to attract new recruits to train as a teacher. There were two adverts. The talking heads one with the strap line, ‘no one forgets a good teacher’ remains memorable, but the other, although more innovative as an advertisement, doesn’t register in the collective memory to the same degree. In a sign of how far society has changed since 1997, when published, neither advert contained either a web site or email contact address; unthinkable these days.

At the same time the TTA was launching its advertising campaign it was also starting its first drive to recruit minority groups into teaching, starting with a focus on ethnic minority groups. There were a series of conferences to launch the policy, including one in East London addressed by the new Minister, Estelle Morris, newly launched on her career in government.

A decade later I conducted a detailed study for the then TDA into progress in recruitment of minorities into teaching and some years later I replicated the work just on the progress of recruiting ethnic minority candidates both into training and into teaching. As a result, it is interesting to see the data in the recently published ITT provider profiles about the change in percentages of minority groups recruited into training. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016

n many respects, 2015/16 as a good year for minority groups seeking to enter teaching. The percentage of male recruits broke through the 30% barrier for the first time since 2010/11; the percentage of students with a declared disability increased to its highest in the past decade, to reach nine per cent of postgraduate students; similarly, students from a minority ethnic background reached a new high for the decade of 14% of postgraduate entrants. There was even an increase among older trainees over the age of 25, although, at 54%, is still well below the record 62% of trainees over 25 that was reached 2010/11.

How far these percentages reflect either a genuine change in policy or just the outcome of falling overall application levels isn’t clear from the data. An analysis of the provider data for trainees from an ethnic minority background, where numbers are large enough to be reported, shows that London providers dominate the scene, with half the top twenty providers with the best ratio of ethnic minority trainees to overall numbers of postgraduates recruited being located in London. Of the other ten providers, five are located in the West Midlands; two in Yorkshire and The Humber and one in each of the South East, East Midlands and East of England. There were no providers north of the West Midlands or in the South West in the top 20 providers for graduate trainees where data is reported. Indeed, six of the next ten are also in London and the first identified provider in the South West is only in the 39th highest position.

In this context, the reduction in offers to new applicants for 2017 by London providers, reported in previous blogs, will be watched with interest to see what effect it has on recruitment profiles. However, it won’t be until the summer of 2019 that we will know the outcomes.

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?