Pervasive culture of racism persists in UK schools – report

Black and minority ethnic (BME) teachers continue to face racial discrimination which is “deep-rooted, endemic and institutionalized” in the education system in the UK, a new report has revealed.

“Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers”, published jointly by NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union with the Runnymede Trust, shows that racial discrimination is blighting the lives and careers of BME teachers and damaging the futures of children and young people.

The research highlights that BME teachers continue to experience discrimination and harassment as well as greater barriers to pay progression and career progression.

According to the research, twice the proportion of BME teachers reported they had experienced discrimination in the workplace (31%) compared to their white counterparts.

A higher percentage of BME teachers (79% compared to 64%) believed that they were not paid at a level ‘commensurate with their skills and experiences’, and nearly two thirds of BME teachers (64%) had experienced ‘verbal abuse by pupils’ compared to just over half (51%) of their white peers.

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The report explores the reality in schools, highlighting the ‘endemic’ racial inequality in school leadership, the chronic under-representation of BME teachers in schools and the pervasive culture of racism facing BME teachers.
 
“BME teachers are as committed to teaching as their white colleagues, but are being held back by racial prejudice and discrimination,” Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said.

“BME teachers are, on average, paid less than their peers, commonly face discrimination and prejudice when applying for jobs or promotion and typically face both overt and covert racism in the workplace.”
 
Keates stressed that racism in the education system should not just an issue for BME teachers, but an issue which should be of concern to the education system as a whole.
 
“Schools and pupils are losing out on the talents and skills of BME teachers who are unable to advance their careers or who opt for a different profession due to the barriers being placed in their way. If we want the best education for our children and young people we cannot afford to continue to let this happen,” Ms Keates said.

“This report calls for a national conversation about racism in the education system, with all players, including Government, making a commitment to delivering real change to break down and root out racial discrimination. Whilst the Government has said that it wants to address racial inequality in the workplace, this report should be a call to action to tackle urgently the problem of racial inequality in schools,” Ms Keates added.

Dr Zubaida Haque, Research Associate at the Runnymede Trust, said: “The review of the evidence shows us that black and ethnic minority teachers are running into closed doors at almost every step of the way in a profession that is already beleaguered by funding cuts and red tape.
 
“There is a chronic shortage of BME teachers in an education system where there is increasing diversity among its pupils, but the combination of an ineffective government recruitment strategy and increasing career dissatisfaction among BME teachers suggests another broken social mobility promise for black and ethnic minority groups. And what kind of signal does it send to the British public and to the next generation of adults if trusted school leaders are indicating that there are different rules and opportunities for teachers from different ethnic backgrounds in the education system?”