Skip to content

Ethnic minority communities in the UK see education as a gateway for opportunities. Yet in the UK, the ethnic background of teaching staff does not mirror the profile of the pupils (Demie & See, 2023; Demie, 2019). Available government data signpost a mismatch between the teaching workforce and student populations, with 93 per cent of school leaders and 87 per cent of teachers in England being white. This is despite 31 per cent of students being of ethnic minorities (Demie & See, 2023). Gorard et al. (2023) highlight the lack of ethnic diversity and the need for the teaching workforce to reflect the communities it serves. Initial teacher training (ITT) data also show striking disproportionality in acceptance rates, with Black applicants least likely to be accepted (Demie & See, 2023; Callender, 2020). Worryingly, this ethnic disproportionality has not been at the top of the agenda for successive governments in terms of policy and implementation. Demie (2019) and Ingersoll et al. (2021) remind us that teachers of colour serve as role models for all students, raise aspiration, reduce school exclusion, and are instrumental in improving the academic outcomes of ethnic minority pupils. However, the journeys of these limited number of Black and Asian student teachers through ITT are fraught with suffering, often resulting from multitudes of (racial) microaggressions. Well-documented research shows the difficult experiences encountered by Black and Asian student teachers (Warner, 2022). There is a critical absence of discussion of race issues that leads to self-censoring and marginalisation. Instead of feeling like role models, these student teachers feel less equipped and supported by their ITT tutors and school mentors. Clearly ITT institutions have a long way to go in instigating structural changes, shifting from tick-box and procedural approaches when it comes to developing genuinely listening and supportive senior-management-engaged cultures.

‘Demie (2019) and Ingersoll et al. (2021) remind us that teachers of colour serve as role models for all students, raise aspiration, reduce school exclusion, and are instrumental in improving the academic outcomes of ethnic minority pupils.’

The relevance of teacher diversity has repeatedly emerged as one of the most well-established findings in education research into the low achievement of some ethnic minority groups (Demie & See, 2023; Gorard et al., 2023). The international research evidence clearly indicates the disproportionality between ethnic minority students and their teachers, which has led to the educational underachievement of ethnic minority pupils. This is despite the increased number and proportion of minority teachers in schools in the US more recently (Ingersoll et al., 2021). Finally, as Demie (2019) and Baptiste and Writer (2021) argue, tackling underachievement combines many issues including addressing educational inequality and looking at how professional practice/teaching and learning can be changed and transformed to enable ethnic minority pupils to achieve in schools. Unfortunately, these are ongoing issues which need persistent effort on our part.

To raise debate on this issue, we will run a symposium at the 2023 BERA Annual Conference. If you are an urban/rural school teacher, school leader, social justice champion, university academic, education researcher in the UK, or an international attendee keen to understand issues linked with the ethnic inequality that exists in the teaching workforce in UK schools, join us in a symposium at the conference on Thursday 14 September 2023 (11:00am–12:30pm). Feyisa Demie, Kulwinder Maude and Richard Race will explore in depth the barriers to learning of Black Caribbean pupils, the challenges for ethnic minority teachers in ITT, and the continuing importance of tackling ethnic minority underachievement in education. Audience members can participate in the question-and-answer session. Further details about the symposium are available in the conference programme.


Baptiste, H. P., & Writer, J. H. (2021). Visioning multicultural education: Past, present, future. Routledge.

Callender, C. (2020). Black teachers, white education spaces: Troubling school practices of othering and surveillance. British Educational Research Journal, 46(5), 1081–1098.

Demie, F. (2019). Educational inequality: Closing the gap. UCL Institute of Education Press.

Demie, F., & See, B. H. (2023). Ethnic disproportionality in the school teaching workforce in England. Equity in Education and Society, 2(1), 3–27.

Gorard, S., Chen, W., Tan, Y., Gazmuri, C., See, B. H., Tereshchenko, A., Demie, F., & Siddiqui, N. (2023). The disproportionality of ethnic minority teachers in England: Trends, patterns, and problems. Routledge Open Research2(13).

Ingersoll, R., Merrill, E., Stuckey, D., Collins, G., & Harrison, B. (2021). The demographic transformation of the teaching force in the United States. Education Sciences, 11, 234.

Warner, D. (2022). Black and minority ethnic student teachers’ stories as empirical documents of hidden oppression. British Educational Research Journal, 48(6), 1145–1160.