Black to the future in the classroom

September 25, 1998

Publishing performance tables of teacher trainers will help boost the number of black teachers, says Anthea Millett.

The Teacher Training Agency today published the first national profiles of the performance of 101 universities and colleges in training classroom teachers. Packed with useful information, the profiles will help would-be teachers choose which college to apply for. They reveal how many students from each course finally achieve qualified teacher status, how many go straight into teaching and what qualifications applicants need. They also reveal how many trainee teachers are men and how many are drawn from ethnic minorities.

Many messages come out of the profiles, for the colleges and for policy-makers, and many questions. How, for example, does Cumbria primary consortium attract a cohort of students that is 36 per cent male when in other colleges the proportion of men is only a few per cent?

But one of the most striking messages emerging from this mass of data is that there is a pressing need to recruit more ethnic minority teachers. The profiles show that only 5 per cent of those entering primary initial teacher training and only 7 per cent of those entering secondary ITT in 1996/97 were from ethnic minorities.

These figures hide a wide variation, from 0 per cent at some colleges to 47 per cent in others. The best figures for primary were all in London - for the Urban Learning Foundation, the University of North London, South Bank University, Goldsmiths College, Middlesex University and the University of East London. Yet the numbers of ethnic minority students training for teaching in secondary schools climbed as high as 39 per cent outside London - at Bradford and Ilkley Community College.

I believe much more of the country could see a huge improvement in these figures, necessary to help tackle historic underachievement by pupils from those minorities. It is part of the government's education agenda to create a more inclusive Britain in which the talents of all children are fostered. The TTA is determined to provide the kind of leadership that will be essential if we are to increase ethnic minority representation in teaching. We have published recruitment advertisements aimed at ethnic minorities. And we have sought to work closely with the Commission for Racial Equality.

Our next step will be to negotiate with individual colleges to increase the proportion of ethnic minority trainees. Some say they could do this if they allowed more people without standard qualifications on to courses, but are reluctant to do so as this would be reflected in the "academic entry scores". I do not believe that their concerns are well-founded. The most important indicator of teacher training quality is the grade awarded by Ofsted inspectors. The profiles reveal no adverse link between the proportion of ethnic minorities and the Ofsted grades achieved. On the contrary, at least four of the top six primary providers in terms of ethnic minority intake had sound or good grades in the 1994/96 inspections.

We must see a real change in the numbers of people from ethnic minorities becoming teachers if we are to overcome underachievement, discrimination and harassment in education.

Anthea Millett is chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency.

n Should colleges accept students with low A-level scores to boost the numbers of black teachers? Email us on soapbox@thes.co.uk.

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