Be Me In Ed- #BMEInEd by @ASTSupportAAli

*UPDATED*

It appears that there seems to be a lot more movement and interest in BME in education as of late. BUT, I do not feel we are anywhere near where we need to be, just yet…?

(I originally posted this in @Staffrm- you can read the post and comments here. I have shared this post on my blog here too so I can expand on the 500 word limit and get some more ideas/feedback…)

I am a BME teacher… BME= Black and/or Minority Ethnic member of society. I am a proud English man. I am pleased and honoured to be a member of the United Kingdom.

Definition:

BME stands for Black and Minority Ethnicity, which includes members of the following British and international ethnicities: Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Indian other, Chinese, Asian other, Black African, Black Caribbean, other Black background, White and Asian mixed, White and African Caribbean mixed, other mixed. (Ref.)

#BMEINED

Can you be me in education? Can you be a BME educator? Put yourself in my shoes?

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Can you know what it feels like to be an Asian, male, Muslim, (youngish) person trying to make your way up the ladder in education?

I mean, it probably isn’t an issue for you. Why would it be. Why would you need to consider this as something to think about…mostly, I guess, you don’t.

If you follow Steph Green’s ‘i Model’ then maybe you should…

Is the ‘issue’

  • Personal– What does it mean to me?
  • Interpersonal– How do we do it?
  • Institutional– What do institutions/organisations do?
  • Internationally– How is it enforced?

Even if an issue does not affect you personally, maybe you are involved subconsciously inter-personally, institutionally and globally?

I have raised the issue of being a member of BME in education with colleagues, friends and others before and they have literally rolled their eyes and chuckled at me. They look at me and say, but Amjad, you are an Assistant Head Teacher. You have worked hard and now you are here. Simple. But, is it!? (Personally for me, this isn’t about me!) I wonder, why is it because I have achieved some form of success in my career I can not raise the problem at hand for others? For us? For you?.

Aside from my career progression do others forget or ignore elements of personal abuse/discrimination/racism from students/parents that I have faced being a member of BME educators group.

82% said they (BME Teachers) had been discriminated, harassed or intimidated at work because of their colour or ethnic background; (Ref.)

Recently- I even had a really prominent figure in the educational world tell me, but words are just words and I shouldn’t take them for anything but that. I wonder how many times this white, middle class male had been called a Paki/terrorist/Nigga. 

Self reflective questions:

  • Can you tell if there is an misrepresentation of people of a particular minority or majority in your school?
  • What are the characteristics of your senior leadership team? Does it matter?
  • What is the make up of your teaching/support staff in your school?
  • If a school has a high percentage of BME students on roll, should the teaching staff/leadership represent this diversity?

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The school workforce survey in 2013 found that 88.0 per cent of teachers were white British, but 93.9 per cent of headteachers were.

Do you notice?

White privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. (Ref.)

I mean freedom from these issues itself, is a privilege in itself, right? Do you think these (the problems that you may not face), are simply conditions of daily life accessible for all; if so, you have white privilege. However, remember white privilege is an institutional issue as opposed to an individual person. (Further reading here.)

I have had lots of interactions about this topic since writing this blog. I have continued reading and want to educate myself. However, this term white privilege can be seen as racist. This article here explains why. I must say, I kind of agree. So… what now!

*THINKS*

After sharing this post via Twitter, a Sociology teacher colleague of mine ran a revision session using this post as a basis of a starter activity. This was a summary of student responses:

  1. Their analysis was that the intersection of social inequality means that one inequality can not be separated from another and therefore can not be discussed in isolation in terms of social research and discourse (realism)
  2. They didn’t like the term “white privilege” they prefer “social privilege” to reflect this as you can be white, working class and a woman and therefore experience this “under-privilege” and under representation is through a number of narratives

wordle

Try this activity:

All stand in a line… step forward if you are white, step forward again if you are male, again if you are upper/middle class/professional. Again if you attended university. And, again if you are heterosexual. Step back if you are female, again if you are BME, again if you are homosexual and again if you are Muslim?

Does the gap represent the gaps in our society?

Reference here.

So…

We know gender inequality is prevalent. I have read many great posts via @StaffRM by @helenamarsh and @jillberry for example. I have also noticed a leadership conference being organised with/by people like @nataliescott and @jude etc! But, think how big a problem being an ethnic minority in education is too?

Only 104 secondary school headteachers in the UK are from Black Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds in the UK– that’s just 3%

Only 39 Black Head Teachers in Secondary Education in the UK! (Ref)

In the last 12 months almost half (47%) said they had experienced discrimination in relation to their pay and career progression

I am in no way/shape or form suggesting one problem is more ‘important’ than the other, but I would like to implore all to think of #BMEINED too. Many people agree, but, I do not think this issue should be a thorny, or hard to talk about one. Lets talk about it, to talk about the issues.

The Government is changing too, the landscape is changing further. For instance the removal of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant along with the eradication of the requirement of Ofsted assessing schools on their statutory duty to comply with community cohesion.  Also, ministers have decided that schools do not need to report racist incidents or bullying anymore.

A freedom of information request from the TES found that the governments own training programme- Schools Direct. There is a clear disparity between the number of BME trainee teachers being placed on the programme, compared to the number of BME teachers in Education/Teaching related courses.

*UPDATE*

“Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced that all UK schools can now bid for £30,000 in funding to support their BME staff progress into senior leadership positions. She said “good school leadership teams should reflect the diversity of the teaching profession and recent figures show that there are still significant gaps – particularly for BME individuals”.

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Is this enough?

Why? What is happening?

Needless to say, this is an issue in Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Education.

Just a point to note- I do not enjoy/accept/like being invited to an interview/event/teachmeet or whatever simply because I am a member of the BME community. Because I am not a white male. I do not enjoy the term urban either. I do not feel that all events have to have a cross section of everybody. The panel should be selected on what makes for a strong benefit to the attendees. However, a closed zone, or a particular reinforcement model of having a shared group of thought is a problem. Group-Think?

I simply value people achieving on merit. It is only when discrimination and prejudice interrupt this potential achievement that I am left feeling deeply dismayed.

This issue was raised with an organiser of a large upcoming successful event in October. Somebody asked why out of the 32 speakers there was not a single BME educator. The response was astounding. Firstly, he asked what was BME and then I was blocked without a response to me directly.

So to help, click here to join a network of BME educators in the country. The idea is to provide organisers with a bank of BME educators they can tap into to.

Further Reading:

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7 comments

  1. Hi Amjad,
    This was a really thought-provoking piece. Thank you for writing it and getting everyone thinking about the issues of equality. Here are some of the thoughts you’ve provoked me to think about…

    I was recently in Sydney and seeing the level of racism that exists there; especially towards the aboriginal communities, was greatly upsetting. The things I read and heard made me extremely angry. There is a long history in that country to begin to erase and there is work taking place to address that but from an outside perspective, there are vast areas of the country that remain extremely marginalised. I THOUGHT I was thankful to live in the UK.

    I then came back to the UK and just a few days after my arrival, was shocked and horrified to read what kind of views The Sun was promoting through a columnist who will remain nameless here. I recognise that some of that serves them very well with the publicity but it highlights the problem of tolerance (or lack of it) that still exists in our country, however much shame that might bring to some of us. It reminded me of marches that used to regularly take place in Newcastle Upon Tyne from groups that shall also remain nameless so as not to give them any air time. Whilst such racism still remains in our country, I think it will be a great deal of time before anyone can expect equality. People will still see someone from an ethnic minority achieving success as a miracle, something to be remarked upon, rather than just accepted because why shouldn’t he/she achieve success based on their talent and skills?

    Recently, someone I know aired their views that people of other races shouldn’t moan about the names they’re called. I wondered how he could possibly know how they felt- being a white, middle class man from a background of privilege. In what world has he been or will he ever be discriminated against?

    I’ve been brought up knowing that as a female, I have exactly the same rights as a man but I’m saddened to say that still isn’t the case. There are many men out there who still don’t understand ‘feminism’. They think it serves only to promote women ahead of men but history dictates that this will not be possible. Society still expects a woman to have children and get married. This may not be explicitly the case but there have been numerous occasions recently when I’ve had to justify not being interested in marriage or children. To be told that I can’t have a healthy relationship if I have a successful and busy career is evidence enough for me that women may never experience equality. Women may appear on the surface to have it; jobs and salaries and choice, but that doesn’t mean they have achieved equality – only that people have paid lip service to equality. I am expected to value a family life over my career and if I behave to the contrary then I must be a feminist or a lesbian. I can’t just be someone who has a different set of priorities right now, just as a man might.

    Your question about considering whether the balance of our workforce reflects the diversity of our learners…I think it does but- does our leadership team? We have a range of male and female leaders BUT we have close to 40 ‘middle leaders’ and 3 SMT and I can only think of 1 who is of an ethnic minority.

    I’d love to reach a time in our society when everyone genuinely accepts one another for who they are. Rather than saying that Barrack Obama was the first African-American president, he was instead the first President of the USA since 1919 to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I’d love to say that his achievements are just that, that they are not as a result of his skin colour.

    I remember teaching a young female learner who had returned to College as an adult to complete an Access to University course. She loved being in my class and got on extremely well with all of her classmates. I remember her telling me during a 1-1 one day that she was gay. She said that she loved that at College, everyone knew this about her and she was being treated exactly the same as if she were straight. Her sexuality had no impact on her interactions with others; they weren’t constantly asking her to talk about it and explain things. She was just a classmate who brought humour to the class and frequently forgot to do her homework. She had exactly the same number of opportunities as everyone else. I hope that College wasn’t the only place where she experienced such freedom to be who she was without having to justify it. After all, how many straight people ever have to justify when they knew they were straight or how their parents took the news…

    I think teachers have the responsibility to create such freedom and equality for all of our learners: to recognise their differences, but only in the same way that we might recognise their different tastes and interests. Not to promote one learner ahead of another for reasons related to gender, race or sexuality, but to encourage all of their skills and confidence to grow so that they receive the message they can achieve anything that anyone else can- if they put their mind to it and they want it enough. But we also have an equal responsibility to raise their awareness of the problems and discrimination that they and others may and do experience.

    It is not our gender, race or sexuality that should define us but what we accomplish and give to others.

  2. Hi Amjad

    The feedback since the Guardian article has been vast and overwhelmingly positive, which confirms there is a widespread issue. Like you, it’s not about ME but about the issues faced by so many.

    Like you, I have been told, I’m imagining it, being paranoid, emotional and even aggressive. I have been made to feel I should be grateful to be in a position of senior leadership and that’s that. Of course, I am appreciative of my role but leadership isn’t about complacency, it’s about challenging discrimination and changing perspectives. being ignored and left to stand alone leaves a lot of time for quiet reflection.

    I agree with the previous comment, “It’s not our gender, race or sexuality that should define us but what we accomplish and give to others.”

    Your post is very thought provoking and I hope more people can stand up and speak out against ANY type of discrimination.

    Brenda

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