On a day to day basis you probably come across and meet a wide range of people who come from all corners of the world. Being able to connect and communicate with people from all backgrounds is now shifting from a soft skill to a necessary skill in the workplace. With more and more job specifications highlighting that an ‘excellent’ level of communication is essential, what experience and education do current pupils in UK schools receive to build upon this critical skill?  

Teacher diversity 

According to Gov.uk’s School Teacher Workforce, in 2019, 85.7% of all teachers in state-funded schools in England were White British [1]. Even in schools with Black and Asian minority (BAME) teachers, there is a significant underrepresentation in the senior leadership positions [2], with only 3% of headteachers from ethnic minority backgrounds [1].       

Diversity within schools is invaluable as surrounding pupils with a diverse teacher workforce helps to promote tolerance, and it provides a balanced view on culture and race. Pupils seeing senior teachers in positions who are similar to them fosters confidence and encourages pupils to push themselves into obtaining higher-level roles in their future careers.  

Diversity within the teaching profession also helps pupils develop their communication and social skills. Diversity amongst the teachers should always reflect the diversity among pupils, which as a result will prepare them for the diversity of society outside of their classroom.         

Here are some thoughts about diversity in schools from young people that we have worked with: 

“I wish the school had more black teachers, how can I aim high when there is no-one that looks like me teaching me.” 

“Most people who are in charge of the school are white. We need more Black and Asian deputy heads.” 

“If there were more teachers and people in high positions in schools who were not white then I would feel like I belong more.” 

“I wish teachers received training on how to be more understanding of my culture.” 

Is the national curriculum inclusive of the theories, ideas and inventions from people on a global scale?   

Many students, teachers and parents have been outspoken about schools trying to prioritise the perspectives of one group of people and the overlooking of others. This is a problem because limiting education to views from a single narrative does not benefit from the viewpoints of a diverse one.         

The University of Nebraska highlighted in their Culture Matters report that children who learn about diversity and have a cultural awareness from a young age have better social skills, more confidence and communicate more effectively with people different from them [3].  

Pupil to pupil differences  

Permanent exclusion from school can increase the risk of negative outcomes in later life. In the UK, from 2018 to 2019, 15 permanent exclusions (0.2%) were due to racist abuse. [4]. With many factors contributing to this statistic, an important one to note is that many of the victims of racism are also excluded or suspended.  

Schools that are unequipped or do not have adequate support structures that deal with bullying and discrimination face their pupils falling into a cycle of disruptive behaviour, disengagement, and ultimately at risk of permanent exclusion. Young people that experience discrimination have disrupted growth and development.  Ultimately, a damaged social identity and a negative view of themselves resulting from bullying or racism can result in displaying disruptive behaviour in school [5]. 

Here are some quotes from the young people we have worked with showing why we should care about diversity in schools. 

“ I wish my school knew that when someone from a BAME background feels like nothing is being done to tackle racism or discrimination. Eventually, the BAME person will retaliate or be disruptive out of frustration. 

 “Just because the school may view a situation as minor it is not minor to us as we experience these things daily.  We need to feel listened to, heard and understood.”  

We can work with school staff and youth organisations to help improve a feeling of belonging amongst young people. The SIWYC team that has been extensively trained in diversity and inclusion can also work with staff to promote their skills and confidence in recognising and responding to the needs of BAME young people.

Want to know what young people feel about the support that we have offered them? Then have a look below:

The workshops were entertaining fun and it helped me to understand how to face different challenges that will come up in life. The person that delivered it made sure to keep it fun and made sure everyone got a say.”

I loved it so much! I hope other children experience this. The staff from SIWYC are so caring. “

I really liked being able to express myself freely .”

It is fun and engaging and still talks about serious things that have to be addressed.”


[1].  https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/workforce-and-business/workforce-diversity/school-teacher-workforce/latest#main-facts-and-figures 

[2].  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2020/dec/46-all-schools-england-have-no-bame-teachers  

[3]. https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2241.pdf   

[4]. https://neu.org.uk/racism-and-exclusions   

[5]. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/FCD-Adair.pdf