Teachers from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are being given projects rooted in stereotypes rather than reflecting their personal strengths, a survey of BME (black and minority ethnic) staff has found.
Evidence from more than 1,000 teachers in England found additional workloads included black teachers being asked to lead their school’s Black History Month activities, instead of being put in charge of intellectual teacher and learning responsibility (TLR) roles.
Some also claimed the bosses relied on stereotypes as an excuse to hand BME teachers classes with the “most challenging behaviour”.
The survey, for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) by race equality think tank Runnymede Trust, found 32% of male and 27% of female teachers did not feel staff were comfortable talking about race or sexism.
Respondents said structural barriers such as racism – including assumptions about capability based on racial and 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”.
One primary school teacher of Caribbean origin said: “You can bring experiences of your own culture, get children to ask questions about culture, to lead on faith and Black History month.
“(But) having to deal with difficult conversations, you become the mentor for BME, given classes with the most challenging behaviour. It’s the result of stereotypical assumptions.”
Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said: “Racism is not discussed enough in schools, even at a time when intolerance is increasing within society.
“These findings remind us that it is a defining feature of BME teachers’ lives and deeply affects the experience of young black people. It is urgent we open up conversations about racism in staff rooms, in classrooms and in the curriculum.
“Children come to school in a world that is not equal. BME teachers and pupils face racism in the streets, in popular culture and in employment.
“Strategies to better use the potential of schools and colleges to reduce racism are urgently needed. The NUT will be using the good practice identified in schools via this research to develop practical tools for schools to challenge the effects of racism.”
Dr Zubaida Haque, research associate at the Runnymede Trust, said: “Government and school leaders should be concerned that over 60% of black and ethnic minority teachers are thinking of leaving the teaching profession.
“Our survey found that BME teachers were not only overwhelmed with the mountain of paperwork but they are also beaten down by the everyday ‘micro-aggressions’ in the staff room and the low expectations and support by senior staff in their schools.
“This has led to BME teachers feeling undervalued, isolated and disillusioned with their careers.”