Posted on March 19, 2012

Middle Class, White Teachers “Struggle to Tackle Racism”

Hannah Furness, Telegraph (London), March 17, 2012

A study has indicated the average new teacher feels “out of their depth” tackling race issues, due to their own background and lack of understanding about discrimination.

Experts have now called for “equality classes” to become a key part of teacher training courses, in a bid to reflect the “growing diversity” of British schools.

The study, by Manchester Metropolitan University, was based on interviews and surveys of trainee teachers and lecturers who reported their concerns in the classroom.

It found the majority of those training to enter the classroom were white, monolingual, middle-class woman who were taught by people similar to them.

This, it is claimed, had led to “race equality issues to become hidden”, with often little discussion of issues surrounding ethnicity.

Equality expert Peter Hick, who led the study, has now called for schools to recruit more teachers from ethnic minorities, to reflect the reality of British schools.

He recommended making equality classes a part of teacher-training programmes and said more time needs to be dedicated to tackling racist bullying.

Dr Hick said: “There is a continuing need for teachers to be better prepared — the recent allegations of racism in football remind us of the kind of issues they have to respond to every day.

“We cannot rest on our laurels as racial equality remains under threat.

“Our research shows that it takes more than just a ‘teachers pack’ to help deal with these issues — time needs to be dedicated to thinking this through collaboratively.”

His report states: “Of key concern is how the teaching workforce — predominantly white, monolingual, female and middle-class — can be enabled to be more effective and culturally competent in teaching an increasingly diverse pupil population.

“The small numbers of visible BME [black and minority ethnic] staff and students seemed to allow race equality issues to become hidden at times, to become less discussed.”

The study followed a survey by the government’s teaching agency in 2010, which found half of newly qualified teachers did not feel confident dealing with race issues.

In 2011, a survey for the Department for Education found just 11 per cent of classroom teachers were from an ethnic minority, compared with 24 per cent of pupils.