Workload not racism

According to the Independent, ‘Black and minority ethnic teachers face an “endemic culture of institutional racism” in schools, research found today’. This story is covered elsewhere but the press being the press they’ve not reported the main finding only the most provocative.

The Press

Let’s take a look at this ‘research’. The report, ‘Leadership Aspirations and Careers of Black and Minority Ethnic Teachers’, was commissioned by the NASUWT and the National College and compiled by Manchester University and Education Data Surveys.

The methodology section has more than enough to get our teeth into.

    1. Sampling Strategy

There is no control group so it isn’t possible to compare responses. The sample isn’t randomised either. The participants have been selected from those that are available. Two databases were used – one from National College and the other from NASUWT.

The survey uses self-completion questionnaires. Questionnaires record the perceptions of respondents at a given moment of time. They are not records of the world as it is but of the world as it is experienced. Experiences depend on perceptions, and these depend on education, culture, and whole host of factors. In other words, questionnaire responses are never given in a vacuum and reflect the historically-situated, contingent views rather than the objective truth of existence.

    2. Returned Sample

Only 10% of questionnaires were returned by the NCLSCS BME sample, 16% by the NASUWT. This is a fairly low rate of return. It could be surmised, also, that surveys like this are more likely to attract those with grievances rather than those without which is why a mandatory and/or supervised questionnaire would greatly improve response rates and add some balance.

    3. Analysis

The main finding of the survey is NOT that schools are racist. The main finding is that to BME teachers, “The greatest barrier to leadership aspirations overall was workload.” Workload NOT racism. Now if this survey had included a broader, randomised sample we could compare these findings but we can’t. However, that these teachers work too many hours is the perception.

So why, then have the mainstream media outlets carried the racism angle? Racism sells papers, and is of topical interest in the UK. The reaction to Nick Griffin would have been noticed by newspaper owners eager to up their circulations. What better way to do this than to latch on to anything with racism involved?

The sadness of this is not that some BME teachers feel that racism has held them back – albeit tragic – but that the issue of workload hasn’t been dealt with or taken seriously. There is no shortage evidence of teachers doing too many hours. These are the words of the NUT. Any search engine will also reveal numerous articles and reports on the subject. This is why there is such a high turnover of teaching staff especially among the young. Until a cap is placed on the number of hours worked, teachers will continue to burn out, suffer from stress and leave the profession altogether. This harms pupils, costs the taxpayer money, and is so easily avoidable if only the press were not so irresponsible.

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