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Lack of black teachers is ‘national crisis’, warns new book

CRISIS: Academic warns that there is a critical shortage of BME teachers across Britain

A SHORTAGE of black and other minority ethnic (BME) teachers must be urgently addressed to match Britain’s changing demographics, a leading academic has claimed.

According to new book, Respecting Difference: Race, faith and culture for teacher educators only 6.3 per cent of teachers in Britain are from a BME background.

It constitutes “national crisis that needs addressing”, the authors Heidi Safia Mirza, professor of equality studies in education at the Institute of Education (IOE), and research officer Veena Meetoo warn.

Census 2011 data on ethnicity – to be published in September – is likely to show that Britain’s BME population has increased from its current 8 percent.

It aims to “address the hidden and less acknowledged ways in which racism operates in our places of teaching and learning,” said Professor Mirza.

It includes case studies of day-to-day struggles including a white student’s reluctance to sit next to those “with a different skin colour”.

She added: “It is honed from the real life personal and professional journeys of mainly white teacher educators and diverse student teachers working at the chalk face of multicultural classrooms in Britain.”

CONFRONTING RACE

The book also investigates barriers to recruitment, retention and progression for black and minority ethnic students on Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) courses at British universities with guidance on how they can be overcome.

Mirza said too much time was spent tip-toeing around issues of race and religion that both teachers and lecturers can were at a loss when confronting situations alien to their own cultural backgrounds.

“Our hope is this book will open up much-needed dialogue on how to tackle the thorny and difficult issues of race, faith and culture in teacher training,” she added.

SCANDALOUS

It comes weeks after research from the University of Manchester lifted the lid on a “scandalous” under-representation of black teachers in Liverpool.

Only 22 out of 4,192 teachers were from an African or African Caribbean background in 2010, the study found.

It falls well below the ten percent guidelines recommended by Lord Gifford in 1989 following the 1981 Toxteth race riots, and compares badly to inner and outer London where 11 percent and 5 percent of the teaching workforce, respectively, are black.

Professor Bill Boyle, who led the research, said: “Liverpool is a city which has long viewed black children as an educational problem and a threat to the educational standards of the white community.

“There is no significant black presence within the council’s structure, its education department nor within the school governance, management or teaching system.”

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