Scotland needs more ethnic minority head teachers, says Sarwar

Anas Sarwar said more needed to be done to encourage ethnic minorities to enter the teaching profession in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
Anas Sarwar said more needed to be done to encourage ethnic minorities to enter the teaching profession in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
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A senior Labour MSP has called for action to tackle the lack of ethnic minorities employed in senior education roles in Scotland.

Anas Sarwar, former deputy leader of Scottish Labour, said radical measures were required to ensure more non-white people entered the teaching profession and subsequently achieved positions of power in the sector.

Only 16 head teachers or deputy head teachers north of the Border are from black or Asian backgrounds, according to the most recent Scottish Government statistics, while only one per cent of teachers in general are from an ethnic minority - despite four per cent of the country’s population being non-white.

The Scottish Government said a working group on diversity in education was expected to report before the summer.

Mr Sarwar’s intervention follows the launch of two petitions in Glasgow calling for education bosses to protect the teaching of Urdu in city schools and ensure pupils have role models from minority communities.

Hundreds of families from the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities have signed a petition to chief executive Ann Marie O’Donnell, which state the council has made improvements in some areas but still lacks senior education staff from ethnic minorities.

One petition states: “There is a growing disquiet among Glasgow’s diverse children and families due to the general lack of visible staff and, in particular, promoted posts in Glasgow schools and as head and deputy head teachers.”

The council said it had been in contact with the petition organisers.

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“If you look at higher tiers of public sector bodies — chief executives of government departments, principals of colleges and universities and, indeed, head teachers of primary and secondary schools — and ask how many of them are from ethnic minorities, the answer is either zero or next to zero,” Mr Sarwar told The Times.

“Is that because the talent or experience is not out there? I don’t believe that is the case. That is why I want the government to do a race audit, not just of the workforce but of the leadership roles in the workforce. They should be published every two years, while the Rooney rule should also be introduced.

“It would mean that whenever a vacancy comes up at least one ethnic minority individual would be shortlisted for it, as long as one applies.”

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, said the under-representation of black, Asian and other minorities in the profession was a matter of “deep concern”.

Mr Sarwar last week called on Nicola Sturgeon to adopt equality training for senior figures in public life to help tackle “everyday racism” in Scotland.

The Glasgow MSP recently claimed a senior Labour councillor, Davie McLachlan, made racist comments during a conversation between the pair during the recent Labour leadership contest, when the Glasgow MSP lost out to Richard Leonard.

This was “categorically denied” by the councillor and a party investigation is now underway.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “Although teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities, we want to encourage action to address this issue through a working group on diversity in the teaching profession. The group, chaired by Professor Rowena Arshad, is expected to make recommendations before the summer of this year.”