IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Guide launched for school leaders to support minority ethnic teachers

16 February 2022

A new guide that aims to draw a greater attention to the racialised climate in schools has been co-produced by academics from IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society and school leaders in the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) Ethnic Diversity Network.

Teacher sat down speaking to class

In particular, the guide encourages both new and experienced school leaders to reflect on the teacher retention practice within their schools in relation to the experiences of minority ethnic teachers.

In 2020, IOE research revealed that 46% of schools in England had no minority ethnic teachers and there was very little minority ethnic representation among senior leadership teams. Now, the researchers have joined with the ASCL Ethnic Diversity Network  to produce the guide, which aims to increase levels of racial literacy and anti-racist practice.

The guide is organised around three interrelated principles which are divided into themes, with suggestions from the ASCL Ethnic Diversity Network on how to put them into practice.

Firstly, the authors call for leaders to be deliberate and proactive in enabling dialogue around race, diversity and equity in school. They note that while many schools have committed to and made progress in recruitment efforts, a lack of understanding of teachers’ racialised experiences mean there is difficulty in supporting and sustaining this work. Teachers may leave the profession due to limited dialogue about race, diversity and equity in the school, research has shown. Making space for conversations about race and ethnicity within school and becoming comfortable with anti-racist conversations and practices could help to address this.

The second principle is to be mindful of how teachers are deployed and promoted in school. Research has shown that racial inequalities affect teachers’ career progression. Stereotypical approaches to minority ethnic staff development, such as direction into pastoral rather than academic roles, further impede opportunities for progression into senior leadership. The document encourages school leaders to consider multiple intersectional inequalities which impact minority ethnic teachers in the recruitment and retention process, including when racism interlocks with ableism, sexism or discrimination based on being from a migrant community.

The guide recommends that the school leaders commit to proactively identifying talent and planning succession, and mentoring and coaching for minority ethnic teachers while reflecting on how these practices sit within institutional and structural racism.  The authores note that developing racial literacy can help address this and avoid tokenism.

Finally, everyone should be willing to recognise and tackle ‘whiteness’ as a cultural norm in schools. The authors note that this cultural norm can make the everyday professional experiences of minority ethnic teachers ‘psychologically and emotionally wearing, leading to burnout, feelings of nonbelonging and, ultimately, turnover and attrition.’ School leaders should challenge their cultural response to minority ethnic staff and recognise implicit cultural biases. Practising cultural recognition and inclusivity to foster belonging, and building awareness of different cultures are important for leaders to help tackle these issues.

Writing in the guide, the authors note: 

“We believe that the racial literacy of all school leaders and their commitment to racial equity are important for creating a supportive organisational culture for minority ethnic teacher retention and progression into leadership. Racial literacy is not just about developing the vocabulary of anti-racism. Crucially, it is about developing anti-racist language in tandem with the critical consciousness, deeper and broader knowledge, general dispositions and confidence necessary to identify, explain, grapple with and confront the ways in which race and racism function to limit the careers of minority ethnic teachers and, ultimately, prevent greater racial diversity in the teaching workforce.”