Black and Asian teachers are still not getting a fair chance at promotion

On Saturday 20th August I put out the following tweet:

I wanted the responses to assist me with something I was writing (nothing to do with this blog post) as I wanted to have access to real examples. The responses that came back, both publicly and via DM released a range of emotions.

I was saddened, disappointed, angry and at times disgusted; to know that there are senior leaders out there who have so little regard for teachers who don’t look like them, that they would block those teacher’s attempts to further their careers.

I’m not naïve; I’ve been on this earth for almost 50 years and in education for 23 of those years, so I’ve seen and heard a lot. But when I read accounts from teachers who have a desire to progress in their careers but are blocked along the way by those in senior leadership positions, who then try to gaslight them, it makes me feel very troubled.  

Now, I know there are those senior leaders who are fair, supportive and encouraging of all teachers, including those who are Black and Asian, so this blog post is not an attack on the whole profession. It’s highlighting the fact that despite three years of #AntiRacist hashtags, EDI policies and discussions around the importance of diversity, there are still serving headteachers and senior leaders who are blocking the progress of Black and Asian teachers.

The experiences that have been shared with me are not isolated incidents, they are the tip of a very deep iceberg. They are not exaggerated experiences, or the result of individuals being overly sensitive. These are examples of teachers who have been denied the opportunity to progress because they don’t look like those who have the power to employ.

When they’re being told they’re too young, inexperienced or not the right fit, whilst at the same time seeing roles being handed to their white counterparts who are of similar ages and levels of experience, many of those who responded to my tweet ended by saying things such as ‘…so I just stopped applying’.

When Black and Asian teachers see senior leadership teams that are made up entirely of white males, they begin to wonder what hope there is for them. When black females are still being told to change their hair so that it’s more palatable, there’s something drastically wrong. When there is a lack of support from line managers who seem unwilling to provide advice and guidance for those seeking to develop, it raises questions. When you visit a school and don’t see any leaders who look like you, it can be off putting. Some will read this and dismiss it, but that’s because it’s something that, for as long as they live in the UK, they will never experience.

Black and Asian teachers are just as capable of becoming great leaders as their white counterparts so it begs the question, what are senior leaders afraid of? Perhaps they’re worried about what parents might say or that they may receive feedback like the MAT leader in Professor Paul Miller’s paper who said, ‘I received at least one letter each year from an unknown person, complaining about how dark the school is, and that ‘it wasn’t like that when I was there’. [1] Maybe they’re afraid they’ll do such a good job that they’ll eventually be promoted above them, or maybe they’re just racist. It is possible. Even if a school has an EDI policy, it’s worthless if it’s just a document uploaded to a website and there are no sustained actions being implemented.

It’s no wonder there are organisations such as BAMEed, Aspiring Heads, Mindful Equity and DiverseEd, along with the many men and women who advocate for black and Asian educators to ensure there is diversity and equality in schools. Despite the #AntiRacist hashtags that individuals have in their bios there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure Black and Asian teachers have access to the same opportunities as their white counterparts.

It starts at the top, with MAT leaders, headteachers, Trust leaders and governors and if those at the top of the tree refuse to start the change, there will continue to be blog posts such as this, written by individuals who just want their Black and Asian colleagues to be treated fairly.  

[1] Tackling’ race inequality in school leadership: Positive actions in BAME teacher progression – evidence from three English schools

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