Earlier this month, I attended Mission 44’s Diversity in Education Summit. Mission 44 hosted this summit with guests who are working to, or have an interest in, increasing the racial diversity of teachers and leaders in education. The summit aimed to convene key stakeholders, share the latest research and evidence, learn from sector leaders, and collect ideas on how to move forward. As a member of the Mission 44 Youth Advisory Board, I was enthusiastic to share my own insights and learn from leaders within the education sector.
The day began with sector professionals’ speeches and the work currently being done within organisations such as Teach First. We had a vital presentation from members of the Fair Education Alliance’s Youth Steering Group, highlighting a youth perspective on the topic. This was then followed by an insightful panel discussion chaired by Marcus Shepherd.
I attended the breakout session on ‘Recruiting for Diversity’ hosted by Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). Jack presented to us the NFER’s new, soon to be released, research into ethnic diversity within the teaching profession. This research was commissioned by Mission 44 in order to learn more about the barriers and enablers for aspiring teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds. Once released, in early 2024, I recommend reading this landmark study by the NFER.
This breakout session gave us the valuable opportunity to brainstorm and discuss what schools and teacher training providers can do to recruit for diversity. Each attendee had various backgrounds and expertise, which made this discussion truly worthwhile as each of us brought a different perspective to the topic.
A point brought up within the group, the value of having teachers from the same background as a young person, was reflective of my experiences. When I was in school, we had an influential teacher from an ethnic minority background who we felt understood us and who we could go to for anything. Teachers that share our experiences are less likely to racially stereotype, can act as role models, and are more likely to understand the cultural context and even language of the students. Another point raised by an attendee was the current language used in research and statistics regarding race. Lots of current research divides anyone who isn’t White into Black, Asian or Other. I believe this terminology requires reform. Can we really generalise so many people into ‘Other’? I am Pakistani, Jamaican and Welsh- am I all three or simply ‘Other’?
A key point from NFER’s research that I found particularly interesting is how there is no shortage of teaching applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds. Lots of people of colour want to be teachers, so how can we stop them from being held back from reaching these positions? This research highlighted for me that we need to be doing more in order to challenge the barriers that keep people of ethnic minority backgrounds from entering teaching or progressing in the workforce.
To end the day, as a Youth Advisory Board member at Mission 44, myself and Marley, a Youth Steering Group member at the Fair Education Alliance, interviewed some of the attendees. We have done this to share their expertise on topics such as why diversity in teaching is important and the work that is already being done within the sector. Watch the video below!
Mission 44, Youth Advisory Board Member