There aren’t enough black headteachers, new education secretary Nadhim Zahawi says

New Secretary of State signals break in emphasis from predecessor Gavin Williamson

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 09 October 2021 19:01
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<p>Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi replaced Gavin Williamson last month</p>

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi replaced Gavin Williamson last month

There are still not enough black headteachers in England’s schools, the education secretary has said.

Addressing the school leaders union, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in London on Saturday, Nadhim Zahawi said workplace diversity at the top of education was “not good enough”.

The new secretary of state’s comments appear to mark a break in emphasis with predecessor Gavin Williamson, who he replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle last month.

Mr Williamson, who was unpopular with teachers, had in another context dismissed concerns about diversity, when referring to the school curriculum.

But asked about diversity at the union conference, Mr Zahawi responded that was “critical” that teaching was an “inclusive profession” so that pupils from all backgrounds felt represented and motivated.

“School leadership is not representative when it comes to race, and as you say, there aren’t enough black headteachers,” he said.

“I’d go further and say there aren’t enough black leaders in the civil service and high echelons of departments across Government and we need to do better there as well.”

Mr Zahawi added: “I really do think that it’s critical that teaching is an inclusive profession. Schools and their leadership teams should reflect their communities and their pupils and I’m absolutely determined to see improvements.

“I think we need inspiring teachers to represent and motivate pupils from all walks of life. It's not good enough. We have got to go further and I hope we'll do it together. I want us to make sure that we continue to encourage more black and ethnic minority candidates into the profession.”

Speaking after Mr Zahawi addressed the NAHT’s conference, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the union, said: “Broadly, what we heard from Mr Zahawi today was encouraging.

“The real test, though, is what he is prepared to do immediately to prise more investment from the Treasury in the Comprehensive Spending Review, and then how he chooses to develop policy in the coming weeks and months.

“Mr Zahawi took questions on funding, on the move to turn more schools into academies and on the need to see a more diverse group of people becoming school leaders.

“We thank him for his commitment to engage with us and to take an evidence-based approach. From my position on the conference platform I saw a real desire from him to be true to his words.”

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