Teaching in a diverse Scotland: increasing and retaining minority ethnic teachers

This report aims to increase the number of teachers from under-represented groups at all levels in Scottish Schools.

Foreword from the Chair

photograph of Professor Rowena Arshad OBE

The lack of diversity in the teaching workforce has been a persistent and long-term issue not just in Scotland but in many other countries across the world. This lack of diversity is becoming increasingly pressing and visible, as the pupil population in Scottish schools is getting more diverse. The Public Services, including teaching, need to reflect this change.

Scotland's Race Equality Action Plan for 2017-2021 A Fairer Scotland for All asked the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE) to establish a short-term working group to look at how we might increase the number of teachers from under-represented groups at all levels in Scottish schools. In doing so, our report focussed on the holistic aspects that affect all ethnic minorities in choosing and remaining in teaching.

Some might argue that the demographics of the teaching workforce should not matter and what really counts is the quality of individual teachers. Our work does not question that young people are being well served by the Scottish teaching profession. However, the words of a young person I spoke with as part of my research on race equality matters rings out for me 'If I cannot see myself there, then I cannot imagine myself there.'

If we want to diversify and improve the teaching profession, we need children and young people to have a positive school experience, to imagine themselves as a teacher and to view teaching as an important and worthwhile profession of choice. Research demonstrates that Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) individuals overall are applying for teacher positions at a rate near (and often above) that of the wider population[1]. However, it is not just a matter of generating interest in Black and Minority Ethnic young people to consider teaching, it has also to be about dismantling any barriers to recruitment, promotion and retention. We believe the recommendations within this report, once implemented, will begin to address the change that is needed to ensure that diversity is seen as the norm and our children and young people are able to learn from teachers who come from a range of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

What is very clear from our work is that improving the diversity of the teaching profession requires all who contribute to Scottish education to work collaboratively. We must confront institutional and cultural barriers to diversity, whether conscious or unconscious, and not shy away from addressing racism, racial discrimination or harassment where it exists.

The energy that will be required to shift cultures and change behaviours should not be underestimated. We need to engage in positive action and understand that children and young people need high levels of knowledge, confidence and skills delivered by a diverse, highly skilled teaching profession to help them negotiate in today's ever-changing and complex world.

We need to be bold and aim high. We should aim that by 2030 the number of black and minority ethnic teachers in Scotland's schools should be at least 4% which is at a par with the Scottish Black and Minority Ethnic population as per the 2011 Census.

Professor Rowena Arshad OBE


Email: Kelly Ireland

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