The report presents the findings of a survey and in-depth focus groups looking at the experiences of Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BME) teachers in England and Wales. Over 1000 BME teachers responded to the survey. Focus group interviews were conducted with 15 BME teachers from different geographical locations and stages of schooling. The report was commissioned by the National Education Union (NEU) and was conducted by the Runnymede Trust.

Key findings

A diverse staff team has an impact on the environment for pupils and staff

  • The report found that higher proportions of BME staff in a school was associated with teachers feeling that their school was an inclusive and welcoming environment for staff of all ethnic backgrounds.
  • Conversely, higher proportions of BME pupils in a school was associated with lower proportions of teachers feeling that the school was an inclusive and welcoming environment for students of all ethnic backgrounds. This may raise wider questions about the equality of treatment of BME children in schools. For instance, only a third of BME teachers in primary and secondary schools agreed that their school was “proactive in identifying and responding to racism affecting pupils in their school.”
  • There was widespread agreement amongst BME participants that there should be more BME staff in the school workforce.

BME teachers experience barriers to promotion and career progression

  • A third of teachers in the survey had never applied for promotion. A disproportionate number of teachers who had never applied for promotion were 2 female (over 80%). Overall, most respondents had applied 1-3 times although men were still more likely than females to apply.
  • The majority of BME teachers did not feel positive about the appraisal system: only 30% of BME teachers working in primary school and 23% of BME teachers working in secondary school agreed the appraisal system is “supportive rather than punitive.”
  • Less than half of BME teachers in primary and secondary school agree with the statement “my line manager supports me in my career development and progression” (42% and 40% respectively).
  • Structural barriers such as racism, including assumptions about capability based on racial/ethnic stereotypes were everyday experiences for BME teachers. In particular, BME teachers spoke about an invisible glass-ceiling and a widespread perception among senior leadership teams (SLT) that BME teachers “have a certain level and don’t go beyond it.”

BME teachers feel undervalued, isolated and unsupported

  • While there were some staff who felt supported by their senior leadership teams, overall, many BME teachers felt isolated and unsupported by management.
  • BME teachers from all ethnic groups complained about being given stereotypical responsibilities (e.g. behaviour responsibilities or Black History Month) instead of challenging intellectual TLR roles. Black teachers, in particular, spoke about being labelled ‘troublemakers’ or being viewed as ‘aggressive’ if they challenged any decisions.
  • A number of BME teachers noted that the introduction of a statutory ‘Prevent’ duty on schools, with its focus on counter-terrorism and Islamic extremism undermined their ability to address and tackle incidences of racism in schools.
  • Many BME teachers felt that not all racism and discrimination experienced in schools was deliberate. A change to day to day practices of senior leadership teams could stop many BME staff being unwittingly excluded from their teams and decision making.
  • BME teachers were passionate about their role as teachers but felt “overburdened” and demoralised by recent reforms to pay and current capability procedures.
Barriers report: the impact of racism on BME teachers

Over 1000 Black teachers shared their stories of everyday school experiences in a survey and focus group research carried out by the Runnymede Trust, commissioned by the NEU.