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.

2. Background & National Context

2.1 The Scottish Government has a clear ambition to build an inclusive, fair, prosperous, innovative country, ready and willing to embrace the future. Advancing race equality, tackling racism and addressing barriers that prevent people from minority ethnic communities from realising their potential[5] are clear objectives of Scottish Ministers. Equality and Human Rights are at the centre of the Scottish Government's business and this is reflected in the Programme for Government[6], in the economic strategy[7] and in spending decisions.

2.2 The Race Equality Framework for Scotland[8] sets out the Scottish Government's approach to promoting race equality and tackling racism and inequality between 2016 and 2030. Its vision for Education and Lifelong Learning by 2030 is that "everyone has the opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment without disadvantage in relation to racial inequality or racism". The framework sets out how Scotland's educators should be confident to promote equality, foster good relations and prevent and deal with racism. To ensure that this vision is achieved equally for people from all ethnicities, helping to build a Scotland with a common sense of purpose and belonging, the SBTE was asked to consider how to address equality and diversity issues in the Scottish education workforce - this report sets out the Working Group's recommendations to support this specific action.

2.3 To achieve this, the Race Equality Framework for Scotland takes a long term, partnership approach, working with all sections of society including the Scottish Parliament, public sector bodies and agencies, established networks and forums, voluntary sector equality bodies and communities. It is within the context of a national commitment to race equality that this report on minority ethnic representation in respect of the teaching profession should be viewed.

Scottish Education

2.4 The Race Equality Action Plan (REAP)[9] was published in December 2017, assigning a number of recommendations to key policy areas across the Scottish Government with an aspiration that policy teams work collaboratively with stakeholders across Scotland to deliver the shared aims and ambitions in the Race Equality Framework.

2.5 Education and Lifelong Learning was one of the primary focuses in the REAP and Scottish Government believes that image and perception are critical in helping to promote respect for diverse communities to children and young people. Representation in the classroom is important and children need to be exposed to diversity of people in powerful positions.

2.6 This report aims to provide a more nuanced analysis of the possible reasons why there is a shortage of minority ethnic teachers while proposing practical solutions to help support better representation in roles at all levels of teaching and education.

2.7 The lack of diversity in Scottish teaching is not a new issue and the level of representation of minority ethnic groups in the teaching workforce has remained relatively low for many years. Scottish society is however becoming more diverse and the teaching profession needs to keep pace with this change. There are a number of issues that have led to the underrepresentation of minority ethnic groups in the teaching profession in Scotland. These include the perceived attractiveness of the role, accessing teacher education programmes, disparity between application, shortlisting and appointment rates (CRER)[10] and a lack of clear and successful support once in post.

2.8 Non BME teachers and school leaders lack the experience of engaging and working with and within a diverse workforce. This leads to a mixture of awareness of the daily lived experiences of minority ethnic people. The lack of experience and awareness or the presence of racial prejudice impacts on recruitment and selection into programmes of initial teacher education as well as the appointment and promotion of minority ethnic staff into senior positions. The disparity of perceptions was evident from the Working Group's discussions with a range of respondents and it is clear that equity literacy, which is an understanding of the existence of bias and inequity in our spheres of influence, is noticeably absent in some parts of the Scottish education system. Not all equality areas receive the same parity. There has been a distinct lack of willingness to recognise racism or racial inequality as a live feature in Scottish society, though the Race Equality Action Plan is a constructive step forward.

2.9 If Scotland is to be successful in having a more diverse range of people in teaching as a career then the profession itself must take steps to engage and employ underrepresented groups. Over the period of gathering views, we did hear that minority ethnic communities do not value teaching as a profession. Other reasons offered include the fact that the experiences of some BME pupils of the school system have resulted in an impression, rightly or wrongly, that it is not a profession in which minority ethnic people will succeed. This is explored in the Glasgow City Council research paper 2018[11]. This analysis demonstrates that a concerted effort is needed by organisations involved in Scottish education to raise the profile of teaching as a valuable and rewarding career for all.

2.10 We must work collectively to create a better balance across the teaching profession in relation to minority ethnic representation whilst highlighting the benefits and necessity of having such a diverse workforce. Whilst teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities, the statistics presented in this report support the argument for a wider network of stakeholders to look at this issue from a national perspective, drawing on expert views and experience from across a range of sectors.

2.11 As highlighted elsewhere in this report, action is being taken to raise this issue by teachers' representatives, some local authorities, a range of politicians and the Scottish Government through the REAP. The Working Group also notes that the suite of Professional Standards, managed by the GTC Scotland, are currently being revised and will contain a greater focus on equality and diversity. This is a potentially important development to impact on the skills and behaviour of both existing and future generations of teachers. However, it is important that race issues are not lost within a broad umbrella of inclusion, equality and diversity, and any revisions should clearly signal how and where race features within these standards.

National Data

2.12 Currently, Scotland's teaching population is not reflective of Scotland's population. The statistical data illustrates a static position on the number of teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds and has shown very little change in nearly two decades. Scotland's Census 2011[12] recorded that the percentage of people in Scotland from minority ethnic groups is 4% and this compares to 1% of the teacher workforce reporting as being from a minority ethnic background in the 2017 Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland publication. The concentration of black and minority ethnic people in some cities in Scotland means there are higher numbers in certain areas e.g. 12% in Glasgow, 8% in Edinburgh, 8% in Aberdeen, and 6% in Dundee.

2.13 The Teacher Census 2017 shows the number of teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds in promoted posts is disproportionately low. The evidence from the Glasgow City Council 2018 research suggests that teachers from a minority ethnic background felt that the lack of BME teachers in promoted posts was a reason why some choose not to pursue a career in the profession. The small number of BME teachers in promoted posts has rightly been the focus of media interest and is an issue the Working Group is keen to resolve.

2.14 The chart in Annex A shows the percentage of primary and secondary teachers by ethnicity between 2008 and 2017. Where this information has been disclosed, the average percentage in the primary sector is just under 1.1% and in the secondary sector is just under 1.8%. Key figures from this chart show that:

  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds across the whole profession is 672 or 1.4% of the workforce.
  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in the primary sector is 253 or 1.0% of the workforce.
  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in the secondary sector is 393 or 1.7% of the workforce. (not disaggregated by subject area)
  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in the special sector is 26 or 1.4% of the workforce.[13]

2.15 In terms of the number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in promoted posts:

  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in promoted posts across the whole profession is 75 or 0.6% of the total number.
  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in promoted posts in the primary sector is 19 or 0.4% of the total number.
  • The number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds in promoted posts in the secondary sector is 53 or 0.8% of the total number.

2.16 The chart in Annex B shows the Teacher Characteristics: Proportions by Gender, Age, Ethnicity and Employment Type, Grade and Mode of Working by Sector, 2017. With the number of teachers by ethnicity and local authority (all sectors combined, 2017) set out in Annex C.


Email: Kelly Ireland

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