UK: Racial discrimination is a reality in schools and classrooms

published 10 October 2017 updated 12 October 2017

Discrimination is ravaging many British schools, according to a Government audit, and educators are determined to change that.

The UK Government’s newly published audit into racial disparity in public services highlights thevastly different experiences of ethnic groups in Britain’s schools, workplaces, hospitals and justice system, and reveals huge regional disparities.

Commenting on the audit, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said the union “welcomes the publication of this audit as a step to confirming the well-documented problem of racial discrimination at work and in our public life”.

The union has denounced the decades-long prevalence of racism and discrimination in relation to access to jobs and fair treatment in the provision of goods and services in British schools.

Harsh reality

In a press release, the NASUWT identifies the numerous ways in which teachers are discriminated because of their ethnic origin. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) teachers are under-represented in the teaching profession, particularly at the most senior levels. They are paid less than their white counterparts, experience widespread discrimination when applying for jobs or promotion, and often endure racist comments and abuse at work.

Students are also suffering from discrimination, with black Caribbean pupils being three times more likely to be excluded from schools compared to white pupils, according to the audit. But while one in three primary pupils are from a non-white ethnic background, just one in 20 teachers are BME.

Earlier this year, the British media reported on the stereotypical roles given to BME teachers after the publication of the Runnymede Trust’s poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 BME teachers in the UK. The poll found that BME teachers were “more likely to be told to organise school events such as Black History Month, or tasked with behaviour responsibilities rather than being given more challenging teaching or leadership roles”. Black teachers, in particular, feared being labelled troublemakers or being viewed as “aggressive” if they challenged any decisions.

Government must take the lead

According to the NASUWT, the Government is right to challenge employers and institutions to address these disparities. But the Government must also take responsibility for having created a system which has failed to ensure that employers act responsibly and legally in tackling discrimination and advancing equality for all groups.

“The NASUWT has invited the Government to work with us to root out racism and discrimination, as part of our continued work to Act for Racial Justice. The Government needs to take the lead in ensuring that, across all schools, no teacher or pupil is held back or denied the opportunity to succeed because of their colour or ethnic, cultural or religious background,” said NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Patrick Roach.