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New research reveals racial disparities in teacher career progression

May 18, 2022

A new study on racial equality in the teacher workforce research has revealed significant disparities in teacher career progression.

The report, by the National Foundation for Educational Research in partnership with Ambition Institute and Teach First, finds that the most significant ethnic disparities in teacher career progression occur during early career stages, especially in postgraduate initial teacher training (ITT).

The research is the latest action on our commitment to developing longer-term and evidence-based solutions to this issue. Back in December 2020, Ambition’s CEO outlined our vision for increasing focus on racial equality, reflecting on how to take action that will move us forward, but wanting to make sure that we use and apply the same rigour and evidence-led approach that is so important to our values and that we apply to our professional development programmes.

As part of this commitment, we have partnered with NFER and Teach First to develop a robust evidence base which clearly identifies where racial disparities are currently present within the teacher progression pipeline, and to what extent.

Today, we launch the Racial Equality in the Teacher Workforce report.

The report highlights:

  • The most significant ethnic disparities in teacher career progression occur during early career stages, particularly in initial teacher training (ITT).
  • There are significant ethnic disparities in progression throughout the teacher career pipeline.
  • This has resulted in a significant under-representation of ethnic minorities at senior leadership level.

Through this research, we aim to support the system to give every teacher an equal opportunity to enter and progress within the profession.

The research will inform recruitment, retention and progression, policy and practice across the wider education sector.

The report includes recommendations to:

  • Encourage ITT providers to review their application and selection processes to pinpoint the extent, nature and causes of the lower acceptance rates experienced by applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds and to act to address inequalities at this crucial first stage of entry into the profession.
  • Encourage leaders of ITT providers, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and other large educational organisations to commit to publishing institutional data on diversity and acting to address disparities. This would be particularly relevant for larger organisations, where there are sufficient numbers to make the data meaningful.
  • Regular monitoring to assess where progress in reducing and eliminating disparities is being made.

Hilary Spencer, Chief Executive of Ambition Institute, said:

“This important new research is a strong addition to the evidence base about racial equality amongst teachers and school leaders. If we want to improve ethnic diversity across the school workforce, then – as this report shows – we need to tackle the disparities that occur right at the start of people’s careers, and keep focusing on diversity at every stage of the school system.”

“Alongside the personal experience of thousands of teachers and leaders, this report will help all of us focus on the key points in people’s careers where we can improve diversity.”

“At Ambition Institute, we strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their potential, no matter what their background, and we are pleased to have worked in partnership with NFER, Teach First and the expert panel to support the production of this report.”