More diversity needed in teaching profession

Written by Gemma Fraser on 22 January 2019 in News

Teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds make up just 1.4 per cent of the workforce

Image credit: Parliament TV

Scotland’s teaching profession needs a more representative workforce to promote equality for every pupil, MSPs will hear at a meeting on Tuesday.

The Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Tackling Islamophobia, the largest CPG in the Scottish Parliament, will be warned that a lack of role models, cultural and societal barriers, and prejudice are deterring many from choosing teaching as a career.

Others who do become teachers then leave the profession, often citing racism – conscious or unconscious - as a reason for doing so, according to recent evidence.

Speakers from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) will highlight positive measures taking place to address the challenge, and call on the public, private and voluntary sectors to work collaboratively to promote teaching as an attractive career for minority ethnic students.

The percentage of people in Scotland from minority ethnic groups is around four per cent.

However, the number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds is just 1.4 per cent of the workforce. That includes 1.0 per cent in primary schools and 1.7 per cent in secondary schools.

In promoted posts – head teachers, deputy head teachers and principal teachers – individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds make up just 0.6 per cent of the total number – fewer than 100 across Scotland.

Anas Sarwar MSP, chair of the CPG on Tackling Islamophobia, said: “Education is not only the vehicle to break the cycle of poverty, it is also the vehicle to defeat prejudice and hate.

“Teaching a child can help educate and change a family, and it can educate and change a community.

“But that task is made harder when the teaching profession does not reflect the diversity of our classrooms across Scotland. It’s clear that we are failing to encourage BAME individuals to embark on a teaching career.

“Improving the diversity of the teaching profession to reflect our society will benefit every single school and every single pupil, ensuring the next generation of Scots learn from teachers who come from a range of diverse cultures and backgrounds.”

Khadija Mohammed, a lecturer in education at the UWS and chair of SAMEE (Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators), said:

“We know there are challenges, but it is important now - more than ever - to work together in a more joined-up approach and explore ways forward.

“At SAMEE, we have developed a bespoke coaching and mentoring programme for BAME professionals which essentially encourages them to come together as a community and considers ways in which they can support and learn from each other to progress.

“It is important to provide guidance from an early stage in the mentee's professional journey, placing emphasis on the value of a diverse workforce.”

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