Black student teacher drive fails

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The Independent Online

Attempts to recruit badly needed black and Asian teachers are failing, despite a Government drive to tackle the shortage. There have been calls for an overhaul of the way teachers are recruited after special training courses and a high-profile advertising campaign had no effect.

Attempts to recruit badly needed black and Asian teachers are failing, despite a Government drive to tackle the shortage. There have been calls for an overhaul of the way teachers are recruited after special training courses and a high-profile advertising campaign had no effect.

Ministers have also been embarrassed by research which shows minority candidates are far more likely to be rejected than whites. For example, more than half of black African applicants were told they were not suitable.

Only 2.3 per cent of practising teachers are from minority groups, although 7 per cent of pupils are. The Government's Teacher Training Agency has funded mentoring schemes and courses for ethnic minority students, and the "No one forgets a good teacher" advertising campaign featured black role models.

Yet the proportion of black and Asian trainee teachers has remained stuck at six per cent. The leading recruitment analysis firm, Education Data Surveys, says the percentage of black African applicants rejected by post-graduate training courses rose from 53 per cent to 58 per cent between 1997 and 1999, the first two years of the Labour government. The proportion of "unplaced" black Caribbean students rose from 35 to 37 per cent. But only 25 per cent of white applicants were turned down for post-graduate training in 1999.

"Clearly, not enough is yet being done because these figures are very worrying," said a spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality. "We're building up a problem that's going to be with us for a long time. We should have the same sense of concern about our teaching force that we do about policing in Britain."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, Britain's largest teaching union, said: "There needs to be a focused and targeted approach to attracting high-quality black graduates. I don't detect the kind of effort made by police in the light of the Stephen Lawrence enquiry."

Britain's most prominent black headteacher, a member of the Government's Standards Task Force, William Atkinson from the Phoenix High School in Hammersmith, west London, said: "Some have also had academically chequered careers and may have got their qualifications through a convoluted route. But it's very difficult to get anyone to want to be a teacher today, even in high-performing schools."

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