The Reporter
Issue 496, 23 February 2004
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Redressing the ethnic imbalance in the classroom

Nearly 13 percent of schoolchildren in England are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, yet 95% of those employed to teach them are white.

The TC21 project, managed by Sudha Raghavan in the school of education, is trying to recruit more people from ethnic minorities onto teacher training courses across the region, to try to redress this imbalance.

“Low numbers of black and ethnic minority teachers means there’s a lack of role models for schoolchildren from those backgrounds,” said Sudha Raghavan. “It’s important to make teachers more representative of the population, to improve social inclusion and combat racism.”

According to Mrs Raghavan, numbers of applicants from ethnic minorities are high, but many don’t get accepted onto courses. The project is helping potential applicants improve their applications, prepare them for interview and working with admissions tutors to broaden their outlook. “Many people have an image in their mind of how a typical teacher – particularly a primary school teacher – should be,” said Sudha Raghavan. “While ethnic background is removed from the forms before admissions tutors see them, black and ethnic minority applicants often don’t fit this stereotype, so they’re falling at the
first hurdle.”

Of those that get through, many drop out during their first teaching practice. A new taster course for potential applicants includes time in a school, to ensure trainees are better prepared for the reality of teaching. Many also fear racism, or worry about how they will handle it, and Mrs Raghavan is working with schools to ensure proper support is available. She has also set up a support group for black and ethnic minority trainees.

The project is run by a consortium of 11Yorkshire and Humberside institutions, and has a target to recruit 9% of teachers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds by 2005-6. Leeds currently recruits just under 8% onto its secondary courses and 3% onto primary.

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