GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

The impact of a non-diverse profession on children

Children in Scotland and Intercultural Youth Scotland are working on important research to help build a diverse teaching profession in Scotland.

This article appeared on page 18 of Teaching Scotland, issue 88. Read the full magazine.

A diverse teaching profession is essential to building an inclusive environment for teachers and learners. But with only 1.9% of teachers from a BAME background – when Scotland has a minority ethnic population of 4% – how can this be achieved? Moreover, racism in the teaching profession is a shocking reality, with 71% of BAME respondents to Professor Rowena Arshad’s Teaching in a diverse Scotland 2019 report saying that they had experienced racism as a teacher or lecturer. A summary of an interview with Professor Arshad can be found on page 28 of the magazine, or watch the full interview below.

Professor Arshad’s report should have been a wake-up call to the profession. Three years on, a follow-up report outlines the work still to be done to achieve the aim of a diverse teaching profession. In the intervening period, GTC Scotland asked Children in Scotland (CiS) to research the true nature of diversity in Scottish education, in partnership with Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS), focusing on children and young people’s experience in school. The initial results highlight the imperative for a diverse profession.

In a survey* conducted by IYS, young people were asked to rate this statement: ‘Teachers and staff at my school did not understand my culture, heritage or background’

  • 70% of young Black, Person of Colour (BPoC) respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.
  • Almost half (48.9%) of African/ Black respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.
  • Over one-quarter (26.7%) of Mixed respondents expressed strong agreement with this statement.

A note on terminology

The young people who took part in this project preferred the term BPoC – Black, Person of Colour – to describe their background, rather than BAME. As such, ‘BPoC’ was used in this article. ‘BAME’ will only be used when referring to other research or literature which uses this term.

Undertaking the research

The first phase of the ‘Diversity In Scottish Education’ project is now complete, but this marker was only reached after a redesign of the methodology. The first version of phase one was an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. Despite a wealth of expertise, CiS found that more had to be done to safely involve BPoC children. They partnered with IYS to help ensure that BPoC children could speak freely to someone who truly understood their culture, background and experiences.

Elaine Kerridge, Policy Manager – Participation and Engagement at Children in Scotland, said: “Children in Scotland is very pleased to be working on this important project with GTC Scotland and IYS. We have already learned a great deal from the first phase of this project. “Children and young people have shared their experiences of racism in education through previous projects and reports, but this project offers them an opportunity to share their opinions on what more diversity in Scottish education could and should look like and the positive impact this can have on children and young people across Scotland in the classroom every day.

“By partnering with IYS we are able to offer a safe space for all children and young people to take part and have their voices and experiences heard.”

Khaleda Noon, Executive Director of Intercultural Youth Scotland, said: “We are very pleased to be working in partnership with CiS on this incredibly important project, led by experts who have lived experiences of racism. It is essential that trained BPoC young people take a lead when discussing racism and antiracist education, with their voices being heard and understood to ensure genuine change and action in the education sector in Scotland.

“It is crucial that there is an urgent evaluation of BPoC young people’s experiences on antiracist programmes that are currently being delivered in schools, so they do not further embed the negative experiences happening in schools across the country.”

A creative group

A total of 17 children and young people took part in a national codesign group, from a variety of ages, locations and backgrounds. Sessions took place online due to Covid-19, but this also meant that children from anywhere in Scotland could take part. The co-design group was invited to answer a question each week and discuss their experiences, with an emphasis on children’s rights. The focus wasn’t just on their experiences at school, but also on the curriculum and what they learn. Decolonising the curriculum has become an important topic over the last year. One session used a lesson on Suffragettes to highlight stories of BPoC Suffragettes.

Despite knowing about the Suffragette movement, very few children and young people were aware of non-White Suffragettes. When hearing about the important work of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh in the Suffrage movement, one young person remarked that if the curriculum had been more diverse and inclusive, “They would get remembered in a better way not just in a small photo. They’d have a statue”.

Next steps

The project is now in phase two, with CiS and IYS developing engagement resources based on feedback from phase one. Two schools (one primary, one secondary) will be selected to run a pilot programme and will be supported to deliver this work through anti-racist training. The final analysis will be collated into a report, expected to be published in summer 2021.

FURTHER READING

*In Sight report

Teaching in a diverse Scotland report

Teaching in a diverse Scotland – increasing and retaining minority ethnic teachers: 3 years on

Covid in Colour report

GTC Scotland Equality and Diversity Hub

Tackling workforce inequality

Following the publication of the Teaching in a Diverse Scotland: Increasing and Retaining Minority Ethnic Teachers in Scotland's Schools report, former GTC Scotland Chief Executive and Registrar, Ken Muir spoke to Professor Rowena Arshad, Chair of the Diversity in the Teaching Profession Working Group, about the progress made in the last three years and the work still to be done in diversifying the teaching profession in Scotland.