A child once asked a fellow teacher “Why are there so little black teachers in our school?” and she did not know how to reply. Statistics from the DfE (Department of Education) show that only 2.2% of black people make up the teaching population in England and Wales and the children are beginning to notice.
The result of this sad statistic is one that is unfortunately at the expense of black children. It means that there are less role models for black children, a lack of adults who can relate to black culture and arguably most importantly, there are no culturally sensitive approaches to safeguarding issues that are prominent in Afro-Caribbean households.
Firstly, the lack of role models for black children is an important issue that I want to highlight. Schools are meant to be a setting in which social status is set aside and all children are given an equal opportunity to learn thus bettering their chances at success. With a large percentage of the working-class population made up of black people, the very sad truth of the matter is that for most black students, their postcode will determine their level of success. How can we expect social mobility for disadvantaged students when real life examples seem almost unattainable? The lack of black teachers discourages black children to want to become teachers themselves as many of them believe that this. nor any form of success is a possibility.
If all that children see is a teaching force and a senior management team as being all white, yet the cleaning staff are composed of ethnic minorities, then that is all that they will aspire to be.
Especially if they do not see people they admire in senior positions. We must tackle the underlying problems that cause the number of black teachers and leaders to be so low that we cannot provide a relatable role model for the next generation. In addition to this, the UK, in my opinion, is a ‘melting pot’, an extremely diverse nation. However this is not represented in the teaching body. Having a black teacher does not only benefit black children, but also white children as it counters their pre-existing bias. A diverse teaching workforce benefits all students, not just those who derive from a ethnic background.
The effects of the lack of black teachers also has implications on the treatment of black children, with conscious and unconscious bias heavily playing a part. Unconscious prejudice from teachers can affect the way children are disciplined at school, how their work is assessed, and the academic ability set that they are allocated. In one study carried out by the NUT (National Union of Teachers), black children were found to perform consistently better in externally marked exams rather than assessments marked by their own teachers. The reason for this is believed to be low expectations and unconscious bias. Once a teacher unconsciously projects their low expectations onto a child, the child then acts accordingly. Thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. During their own school days, white teachers themselves have been exposed to an ‘ethnocentric curriculum’: a curriculum that priorities white culture and the English language. This in addition to an underrepresented workforce also adds to the unconscious bias that is present amongst both teachers and children. This continuous cycle has always been at the disadvantage of black children.
My personal relationship with education has been relatively positive. As lucky as I am to have been taught and now work beside some amazing teachers, I am aware that none of them look like me. A sentiment that many black people can relate to. Upon reflection to the height of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in early June, I remember talking to a friend and questioning whether we would ever see the end goal of the movement in our lifetime. I am still unsure of the answer to this question, but I am certain that the push for more black teachers will only benefit the education and the wellbeing of the next generation, which is already a positive step in the right direction.