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‘Name-blind’ applications for teacher training could boost diversity – report

The review was funded by Mission 44, a charitable foundation launched by Formula One star Lewis Hamilton (PA)
The review was funded by Mission 44, a charitable foundation launched by Formula One star Lewis Hamilton (PA)

Teacher training providers should look at introducing “name-blind” recruitment to improve ethnic diversity in the workforce, a report has said.

An evidence review by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that teachers of colour face barriers to the teaching profession – from entry to senior leadership level.

Despite being over-represented among applicants for initial teacher training (ITT), people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds have “lower acceptance rates” on to ITT courses than their white peers, the report said.

It said people who are not white are “considerably under-represented in teaching”, with figures showing that around three in five (60%) schools in England had an all-white teaching staff in 2021/22, while 86% of schools had an all-white senior leadership team.

The review – which was funded by Mission 44, a charitable foundation launched by Formula One star Lewis Hamilton – recommended a number of strategies to help improve recruitment diversity.

It said name-blind applications, contextualised recruitment and conditional offers could be used to tackle low acceptance rates for ITT applicants who are of colour.

Charity Teach First already uses blind recruitment – where assessors know as little as possible about the background of the candidates, including their name, age, ethnicity and school information – in its ITT application process.

The NFER report uses teachers and people “of colour” as an umbrella term referring to people who do not identify as white.

Racism, preconceptions linked to their culture and/or faith, and a lack of encouragement were the main barriers to school leadership reported by teachers of colour, the report found.

Experienced teachers of colour can become frustrated by a lack of opportunities for progression due to an absence of support and unfair treatment, it added.

The evidence review suggested that selection panels for senior posts in schools could include people from ethnic minority backgrounds to boost diversity, and bursaries could be offered to teachers of colour to undertake leadership development.

Jack Worth, school workforce lead at the NFER, said: “Concerns about the low representation of people of colour in the teaching workforce are not new but the issue persists despite policy commitments to address it.

“Evidence shows there has been an increase in people of colour applying for ITT in the past decade, but retention and promotion gaps have widened.

“There needs to be support and encouragement of career progression for teachers of colour, with a firm commitment from senior leaders to provide career advancement opportunities.”

Katherine Aston, research manager at the NFER, said: “The message from the research was clear. Teachers of colour report being socially excluded, stereotyped, rejected for promotions or professional development, and experience overt racism.

“For example, teachers of colour may be motivated to introduce diverse content into their teaching only to find this is challenged or disparaged by colleagues.

“Teachers of colour commonly report being encouraged to take on pastoral or behavioural responsibilities based on stereotypical perceptions of their ethnicity, only to find that it’s difficult to progress to more senior leadership from these roles.”

Jason Arthur, chief executive of Mission 44, said: “To build a more inclusive education system that works for all young people, the teaching workforce must be representative of the communities they seek to serve.

“Despite the positive efforts of many within the sector, for too long the issue of diversity in teaching has been overlooked within government. By highlighting the key barriers and enablers to a more diverse education system, it is our hope this report acts as a catalyst for change.”

Emma Hollis, chief executive of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said: “Lack of diversity in the teaching workforce is a persistent issue in the UK education system.

“We know from previous research that there is significant interest in teaching from black and minority ethnic candidates – but that this is not translating into more teachers from these communities standing in front of classes – so we broadly welcome any workable and sustainable solutions that may help to remove the barriers highlighted in this latest publication.

“The specific idea of name-blind applications has not been trialled yet so should initially be piloted with the Department for Education and ITT providers to test the difference this could make, and we would be keen to support that.”

She added: “Having a diverse workforce is beneficial to all pupils, bringing different perspectives to the classroom and enriching their education experience as a whole.

“It is down to us, and all ITT providers, to ensure the teaching workforce is as diverse as the pupils they are teaching, which will help to drive aspiration, achievement and break down barriers.”

Margaret Mulholland, inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is pretty depressing that teachers of colour continue to encounter barriers to leadership and headship such as lack of encouragement, racism and preconceptions linked to their culture or faith.

“It’s not good enough that there is not a single government initiative to encourage and to nurture teachers of colour to ensure a sense of belonging and success within the teaching profession. This has to be a priority, particularly at a time when recruitment and retention is so challenging.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teaching should be an inclusive profession as accomplished teachers, regardless of background, provide positive role models and shape the lives of young people.

“There are now record numbers of teachers in our schools, up by 27,000 since 2010, which has been achieved through a range of initiatives including the introduction of tax-free bursaries and scholarships worth up to £30,000.

“The proportion of teachers as well as leaders who identify as belonging to an ethnic minority group have both increased by around four percentage points since 2010.”