John Howson

Readers of this blog will know that in April I revisited an article I first wrote in 1996 about Equal Opportunities in Education.

In the 1996 article, I wrote that:

“It is clear that members of some ethnic groups are less likely to find places on PGCE courses than white applicants.” I added that “These figures are alarming” and that “If graduates with appropriate degrees are being denied places on teacher training courses in such numbers, much more needs to be known about the reasons why.” During the period 2008-2011, I was asked to conduct two, unpublished, studies for the government agency responsible for training teachers. Sadly, the conclusion of both studies was that little had changed in this respect.

In the April article that also considered the issue of gender and ageism in the training of graduates to become teachers I made the following points.

Fortunately, it seems as if more graduates from ethnic minority groups are now entering teaching. Data from the government’s annual census of teacher training reveals that between 2014/15 and 2018/19 the percentage of trainees from a minority ethnic group increased from 13% to 19% of the total cohort.

Table 5: Minority Ethnic Groups as a Percentage of Postgraduate Trainees

Postgraduate new entrants Postgraduate percentages
Trainee Cohort Total Minority ethnic group Non-minority ethnic group  Minority ethnic group Non-minority ethnic group
2014/15 24893 3178 21715 13% 87%
2015/16 26957 3873 23084 14% 86%
2016/17 25733 3753 21980 15% 85%
2017/18 26401 4113 22288 16% 84%
2018/19 27742 4917 22825 18% 82%
2019/20p 27675 5168 22507 19% 81%

Source: DfE Initial Teacher Training Censuses

In numeric terms, this mean an increase of some 2,000 trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds during this period.

Although UCAS no longer provides in-year data about ethnicity of applicants, there is some data in their end of year reporting about the level of acceptances for different ethnic groups.

In the 1996 article, there was a Table showing the percentage of unplaced applicants to PGCE courses by ethnic groups in the three recruitment rounds from 1993 to 1995. What is striking about both that table, and the table below for the four years between 2014-2017 that presents the data on the percentages of ethnic groups accepted rather than unplaced, is that in both of the tables, graduates from the Black ethnic group fare less well than do White or Asian applicants. Indeed, the overwhelmingly large White group of applicants had the lowest percentage of unplaced applicants in the 1990s, and the highest rate of placed applicants in the four years from 2014-2017.

In the original article I noted that “39% of the Black Caribbean group [of applicants] accepted were offered places at three of the 85 institutions that received applications form members of this ethnic group. Thirty-nine out of the 85 institutions accepted none of the applicants from this group that applied to them.” Although we no longer have the fine grain detail of sub-groups within this ethnic grouping, nothing seems to have significantly changed during the intervening period.

Table 6: Percentage Rate of Acceptances for Postgraduate trainee Teachers

2014 2015 2016 2017
Asian 39 47 44 48
Black 27 34 30 35
Mixed 49 56 51 55
White 56 64 61 64
Other 31 38 37 39
Unknown 46 53 48 52

Source: UCAS End of Cycle reports.

Using the data from the government performance tables for postgraduate trainees, it seems that a smaller percentage of trainees from ethnic minorities received QTS at the standard time when compared to those from the non-minority community, with the percentages of those trainees both not awarded or not yet completing being greater for the trainees from the minority ethnic groups.

Table 7: Success of Postgraduate Trainee Teachers by Ethnicity

2017/18   Trainees Percentage awarded QTS Percentage yet to complete Percentage not awarded QTS Teaching in a state school Percentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state school
Ethnicity Minority 4,311 88% 6% 6%  3,014 80%
Non-minority 22,861 92% 3% 4%  17,022 81%
Unknown 706 90% 4% 6%  503 79%

Source: DfE database of trainee teachers and providers and school Workforce Census

However, the percentage reported as working in a state school was similar at 80% for ethnic minority trainees and 81% for non-ethnic minority trainees. As there are no data for trainees working in either the independent sector or further education institutions including most Sixth Form Colleges, it isn’t clear whether the overall percentage in teaching is the same of whether or not there is a greater difference?

So what has changed in the profile of graduates training to be a teacher during the twenty years or so between 1997 and 2019? The percentage of trainees from minority ethnic groups within the cohort has increased. However we know their chances of becoming a teacher are still lower than for applicants from the large group of applicants classified as White as their ethnic group.

Ethnicity and Leadership

For some twenty years I compiled an annual report on the labour market for senior staff in schools. At the turn of the century questions about the ethnicity of candidates were included. In the report on the 2005-06 school year I wrote:

Two other issues we have highlighted over the past few years, where we believe urgent steps need to be taken are the recruitment of senior staff from ethnic minorities and for faith schools. We are especially concerned about the almost complete absence of appointments in the Special school Sector of any staff from amongst the ethnic minorities. … although the position seems to be a little better in the Primary and Secondary School Sectors, we are not convinced that enough is being done to recruit senior staff from amongst these groups.

12th Report Labour Market for Senior Staff in schools 2005-06 prepared for NAHT and ASCL.

That was a typical comment of the period.

The NASUWT also commissioned a report into Black and Ethnic Minority Teachers from a team at the University of Manchester that was published as The Leadership Aspirations and Careers of Black and Minority Ethnic Teachers in January 2009. The text is available on Researchgate at The key message from that study was that at that time ethnic minority staff did not perceive the teaching profession to be inclusive.  It would be interesting to know whether such feeling were still prevalent today.

The is no doubt that progress differs across the country, with some areas more forward in both understanding and tackling the issues that other areas where they have been seen of as less concern. Hopefully, the issue will once again see discussion and action to ensure all teachers are treated equally. However, that begs the question of what is meant by equally?

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