Helping BME teachers into leadership roles

Only 104 secondary school headteachers in the UK are from Black Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds in the UK– that’s just 3%. With some schools seeing 70% of students from a BME background, this means that the staff makeup simply does not reflect the student body. A new, government-backed scheme aims to tackle this inequality by providing professional development opportunities for BME teachers to help them to progress into leadership roles against the odds.

BME leaders in secondary schools

Out of the 18,000 qualified BME teachers, only 1,000 are in leadership positions and only 104 are headteachers. While numbers of BME headteachers in England are slowly growing – the percentage rose from 5.6% in 2012 to 6.1% in 2013 – the picture differs hugely regionally. The North West for example has only 27 BME headteachers in comparison to 99,910 BME pupils. 28.5% of primary schools and 24.2% of secondary schools have BME students and 70% of all students in London are from BME groups.

BME students benefit hugely from seeing BME staff in leadership positions on an everyday basis. Role models are essential in inspiring children to aim high and to view school as a place that welcomes them and where they could be successful. Spending their school days with school leaders who appear to be unrepresentative of their views and with whom they appear to have little in common, may put BME students off a teaching career. The profession will then not increase its diversity, which will then deter the next cohort of students from becoming teachers. The latest cohort of trainee teachers to pass through the School Direct scheme had only 8% of participants from a non-white background.

Having a leadership team from a range of ethnic backgrounds also helps to forge good relationships between students and staff. It brings variation into the school, encouraging students to value different cultural traditions, creating a culture of tolerance and support.

The leadership scheme

The government’s trial of the scheme aiming to increase the number of BME headteachers was a success, with 30 schools allocated funding to spend on diversity leadership projects which are set to benefit 1,000 teachers – all of whom are predicted a promotion within 12 months. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced that all UK schools can now bid for £30,000 in funding to support their BME staff progress into senior leadership positions. She said “good school leadership teams should reflect the diversity of the teaching profession and recent figures show that there are still significant gaps – particularly for BME individuals”.

The scheme is being driven by the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), a government-funded organisation running local and national programmes to address the under-representation of BME leaders.

The key objective of the scheme is to support BME teachers to progress into senior leadership positions so the school workforce reflects the diversity of the pupils and staff it represents and so becomes an accepting environment for all cultures and backgrounds, ensuring that BME pupils across the country have strong role models to inspire them.

As part of the programme, two ‘Through the lens of inspection’ sessions will be running on 23rd and 30th June at Congleton High School, hosted by the school’s Executive Principal David Hermitt, which aim to demystify the process of inspection  – busting any uncertainties that circulate amongst schools. This course will help schools to self-evaluate and view themselves as an inspector would. Teachers from BME backgrounds can apply by emailing

According to David, “it is crucial for schools to recognise that having a diverse leadership team is hugely important for their students in creating role models and removing stereotypes. School should be an environment which accepts and supports people from all backgrounds, encouraging attainment and ensuring that BME students are given an equal start in life.”

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