IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


46% of all schools in England have no BAME teachers

14 December 2020

A new study by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) finds that 46% of all schools in England have no Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers, and even in ethnically diverse schools, BAME teachers are underrepresented in senior leadership teams.

Teacher checking pupil's work in class

The researchers also found that only 16% of schools across England employ over a fifth of their teachers from BAME groups.

The study used the 2018 School Workforce Census and related administrative school census datasets to model the distribution of non-White British teachers across English schools. It also conducted 24 narrative interviews with teachers from different ethnic and professional backgrounds working in urban disadvantaged schools to explore factors shaping their decisions to stay in or leave teaching.

The research team found that BAME teachers are concentrated in London schools, as well as ethnically diverse schools both in terms of staff and pupils. BAME teachers also tend to work in disadvantaged schools in London. The teacher interviews revealed that they were open and motivated to teach in urban diverse schools, which experience teacher supply challenges, because they value diversity in the workplace and relate to pupils from non-dominant ethnic communities.

Leadership and Continuing Professional Development

Although teachers value workplace diversity, they disapprove of the universal whiteness of senior leadership teams (SLTs) in otherwise diverse schools, the study found. This underrepresentation in leadership plays a role in BAME teachers’ decisions to move schools because of a perceived negative impact on the organisational culture.

Stalled opportunities for career progression are the key turnover and attrition factor for experienced BAME teachers in England. Those interested in senior promotions feel unfairly passed over for such opportunities, leaving many disillusioned or in pursuit of opportunities outside of the state school sector.

Interviews suggested that the SLT plays the key role in creating multicultural capital within ethnically diverse schools, including by making a conscious effort to increase their own racial literacy to end colour-blind or stereotypical approaches to BAME staff development.

Co-author Professor Martin Mills said: “The challenges of progression need to be placed on the policy agenda to mitigate the turnover and loss of both early career and experienced teachers from minority ethnic groups.”

Teacher speaking to pupil in class

A ‘hidden workload’

Unlike for White British teachers, workload was not at the forefront of BAME teachers’ minds in interviews with researchers about retention. The experience of battling racial inequalities was a ‘hidden workload’ for these teachers, which led to burnout, turnover and attrition.

The report highlighted perceived low expectations or negative attitudes about minority students, lack of support for culturally relevant and inclusive teaching, colour-blind approaches to dealing with students and staff, and limited dialogue about ‘race’ and equity in the school.  

The report also highlighted the impact of particular inequalities that matter for teachers from different ethnic groups and subject backgrounds.

It found the job satisfaction and retention of BAME teachers are affected by intersections of race and racism with other aspects of identity such as gender, class, skin colour, and immigrant background.

Co-author Dr Alice Bradbury said: “Intersectional aspects of teacher identities such as gender, class and immigrant status work in complex ways for different teachers, including those teaching different subjects or key stages, but particularly appear to disadvantage Black teachers more than teachers from other minority ethnic groups.”

Lead author Dr Antonina Tereshchenko said: “As BAME teachers tend to work in urban schools with high-minority and more disadvantaged pupil intakes, it is crucial that government resources are put into their retention. This would help manage teacher supply in these schools and would also reduce the negative impact of high staff turnover on the outcomes of disadvantaged children.”

The research is part of an eighteen month project (2019-2020) funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy through a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant.



Both images are taken by Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education.