Thursday, July 7, 2022

Lack of black headteachers ‘not good enough’, says Education Secretary

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Nadhim Zahawi and a statue of Betty Campbell, Wales first black headteacher
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and, inset, a statue of Betty Campbell, Wales’s first black headteacher (Pictures: PA / Getty)

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has slammed the lack of black headteachers in Britain, insisting it is ‘not good enough’.

Mr Zahawi has urged school leaders to collaborate with the Government in a bid to boost diversity in teaching.

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He believes it is ‘critical’ the profession is ‘inclusive’ to represent pupils from all walks of life and has vowed to make ‘improvements’.  

The former vaccines minister, promoted to the department of education in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, called for more black leaders in the civil service and ‘high echelons across Government’.

Just 0.2% of headteachers are black and female, the NAHT school leaders’ union conference in London heard.

Speaking at the meeting, black headteacher, Frances Akinde, asked Mr Zahawi, 54, to commit to removing barriers to leadership and diversity.

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He responded: ‘School leadership is not representative when it comes to race, and as you say, there aren’t enough black headteachers.

‘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.’

CARDIFF, WALES - SEPTEMBER 29: A statue of Betty Campbell MBE is unveiled in the city centre on September 29, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. Betty Campbell MBE was Wales' first black headteacher and a community activist, championing multiculturalism. She was born to a Jamaican father and Welsh/ Barbadian mother in Butetown, in 1934, She won a scholarship to the Lady Margaret High School for Girls in Cardiff and later trained as a teacher before becoming headteacher of Mount Stuart Primary School, despite being told she would never succeed. Nelson Mandela asked to meet her on his only visit to Wales. Throughout her teaching career, she encouraged pupils to learn about the positive contribution of people of colour to British life and helped create Black History Month. She became a member of the Home Office's race advisory committee and a member of the Commission for Racial Equality. She died on 13 October 2017. (Photo by Polly Thomas/Getty Images)
The statue of Betty Campbell MBE was unveiled in Cardiff city centre on September 29 this year (Picture: Polly Thomas/Getty Images)

It comes as a statue was unveiled in Cardiff last month to honour Wales’ first black headteacher, Betty Campbell MBE, who introduced Black History Month into school curriculums.

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The popular campaigner, who died in 2017, fought ‘tirelessly for racial equality’.

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.’

Undated Monumental Welsh Women handout photo of Betty Campbell. A statue has been unveiled in Central Square, Cardiff, on Tuesday, to honour Wales' first black headteacher. Issue date: Wednesday September 29, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HERITAGE Headteacher. Photo credit should read: Simon Campbell/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Betty Campbell MBE was honoured for fighting tirelessly for racial equality (Picture: PA)

Ms Akinde told the education secretary: ‘In nearly every room that I enter as a school leader I’m often the only person who looks like me. Even more so when it comes to special education.

‘And we all know it’s hard to be what you can’t see. There are currently only around 0.2% of headteachers that are black and female.

‘As one of those black female headteachers, I know the work that NAHT and Leaders for Race Equality are doing, but I would like to know what you are committed to doing to remove barriers to leadership and to increase diversity?

Mr Zahawi conceded: ‘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,’ he added.

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Black History Month

October marks Black History Month, which reflects on the achievements, cultures and contributions of black people in the UK and across the globe, as well as educating others about the diverse history of those from African and Caribbean descent.

For more information about the events and celebrations that are taking place this year, visit the official Black History Month website.

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