Closing the ethnicity gap in teaching (2023)

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RESEARCH CARRIED out over the last two decades has highlighted the fact the lack of diversity among teaching staff in the UK’s education system continues to be a persistent problem.

Equality campaigners say schools should reflect the communities they serve. They also argue that a diverse teaching staff can help foster social cohesionand support pupils to grow and develop by bringing different perspectives to the classroom and enriching their education experience as a whole.

Campaigners who advocate for more inclusive classrooms argue that teachers and students should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Teachers from a variety of backgrounds, they say, are better able to help students develop into well-rounded individuals by sharing their unique experiences and perspectives with them in the classroom and thereby promoting social cohesion.

According to the charity Now Teach 35% of pupils in England come from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds, but only 15% of teachers share these backgrounds.

The charity is behind an innovative scheme aimed at addressing this gap.

While traditional teacher recruitment focuses on young graduates Now Teach is reaching out to older Black and minority ethnic professionals who are looking to switch careers and encouraging them re-train as teachers.


It believes their wealth of experience in other fields not only offers a unique perspective and approach to teaching but can help double the numbers of Black and minority teachers in the education sector.

“We are not looking for people who can recite the national curriculum or know schools inside out” a Now Teach spokesperson told The Voice. “Now Teach looks for people who want to share their skills and knowledge and experience with students. We firmly believe that a diverse teaching profession is at the heart of a strong education workforce. Being taught by teachers of many backgrounds is important for pupils to grasp the diversity of the wider world. It is also essential that pupils are able to see teachers who share a common culture or ethnicity as role models.”

To mark National Careers Week, The Voice spoke to two people who left successful careers to become teachers after support from Now Teach.

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Closing the ethnicity gap in teaching (1)

Beverly Melbourne, 58, English teacher, Heath Park School

What inspired you to switch careers and become a teacher?

In my previous life, I was a civil servant in the UK Government’s Department for Education, but did some work as a Teaching Assistant which gave me an opportunity to observe lessons. I’m passionate about my subject and lifelong learning. As a career changer, students talk to me about real-life careers and the world of work all the time and I can give them valuable insights.

How did you hear about Now Teach and what made you decide to apply?

It was a newspaper article, just like this one that got me thinking ‘this is something I must do’.

It made me realise I had the right ingredients. I’m proactive about my learning and helping others and I had the confidence to engage with young people and pass on the joy of life-long learning.

My sister who is 50 years old was also working towards becoming a teacher and she rang me two weeks before I applied to find out if I would consider being a teaching assistant, as she did as a way to becoming a teacher.

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What has been the most challenging aspect of transitioning into teaching?

The most challenging thing for me in teaching is that the school day is fixed and you have to be ready for it. Everything must meet the challenges of the timetable. This is also very exciting and you adapt very quickly.

How has your previous career experience helped you in your current role as a teacher?

Career changers of all colours and types bring something unique to the classroom, our experience. We reaffirm the need for all students to be lifelong learners and adapt to the needs of societyand a changing world.What we choose now isn’t forever, I think we sometimes forget to tell young people that.

What do you think are the benefits of having older career changers, especially those from Black and minority backgrounds, in the teaching profession?

All students benefit from seeing diversity because we live in a diverse global world and the UK needs everyone to participate for us to be successful. Please do not think that it is an easy transition, but it is worth it and students’ successes make it all worthwhile.

How do you think your wealth of experience before becoming a teacher can make a difference to the lives of your students and school community?

My wealth of experience means that a child will believe that they can succeed, contribute and that they have purpose. They see that life is about being creative and working with others to find solutions to problems. There is more than one way to achieve the same ends.

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What advice would you give to someone considering a career change into teaching?

I think that you need to talk to agencies like Now Teach and Initial Teacher Training providers like The Sutton Park SCITT. Now Teach gave me the support of a network of likeminded people, who all believed that we all have lots to contribute. The Director of my training outfit, Stephen Cormell, who actually took the time to read my CV, made me see transferable skills from my time working in education, albeit in a different guise, and what I could bring to the classroom. There was so much overlap.

Closing the ethnicity gap in teaching (2)

David Butler, 52, physics teacher, Torquay Academy, Devon

What inspired you to switch careers and become a teacher?

A life-changing event – the death of my parents which was quite traumatic. The grief triggered a lot of introspection. My friends were always saying I’d make a great teacher and I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to give back.

How did you hear about Now Teach and what made you decide to apply?

I read Lucy Kellaway’s (Now Teach co-founder) article in the Financial Times about grief at the same time I was going through my period of introspection. Her story chimed strongly with me. I gave Now Teach a call and within a couple of weeks was attending an open day. We were talking about it so naturally and I sensed I could do this. I’m passionate about physics (I have a degree in astrophysics) and wanted to enthuse students to love physical laws as much as I do.

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I’ve always wanted to make a difference. I joined the military because I wanted to do my bit. I left finance to work in risk management to help companies deal with really difficult decisions. So for me it’s a natural progression to pass on experience and expertise and learn new things and keep humble. It was perfect timing for me

What has been the most challenging aspect of transitioning into teaching?

I was coming into teaching late career, having been fairly successful and my training would be in a challenging school – a critical part of my decision making, having grown up in a challenging environment myself.

Part of that challenge is also understanding teenagers! Realising that teenagers’ motives to learn are very different from adults. In many cases, and those from challenging backgrounds, children don’t necessarily want to be in class learning physics at all. It’s a battle, but one that I relish.

How has your previous career experience helped you in your current role as a teacher?

In so many different ways – perseverance, ability to work long hours, physical stamina, natural ability to stand out front. Most of the experience and skills are more applicable to senior leader roles in schools rather than as a classroom teacher.

What do you think are the benefits of having older career changers, especially those from Black and minority backgrounds, in the teaching profession?

Working at Walworth Academy, South London, which was 80% ethnic minority, I stood out immediately amongst most of the other classroom teachers (mostly young and white). Most older teachers tend to be senior leaders at the school, with a different relationship with junior teachers and children. As a classroom teacher with extensive experience outside of education, the benefits are clear. I quickly realised I was a different type of role model for the children, particularly older teenagers and 6th formers – one I feel they needed. There’s someone who looks like me…or my uncle!

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What advice would you give to someone considering a career change into teaching?

Be prepared for a major life change! It’s a wonderful thing to do to give back and empower the next generation but it is hard and challenging – particularly teaching in schools in areas that are economically disadvantaged. But you know every day you are making a difference to young people.

For further details about Now Teach click here


How can teachers help close the achievement gap? ›

  • 8 Great Ways to Close.
  • Evidence-Based Instruction. ...
  • Provide a Rigorous Curriculum. ...
  • Increased Instructional Time. ...
  • Supplemental Instruction. ...
  • Progress Monitoring. ...
  • Motivation and Engagement.

What's the solution to closing the achievement gap? ›

To close the gap, the focus on equality (treating every student the same) must be replaced with work to promote equity (ensuring every student has the resources and attention they need).

How do you close the opportunity gap in education? ›

Closing opportunity gaps: What we're learning
  1. Seek training and gather resources to gain self-awareness of one's own culture and implicit biases, and focus on ways to change attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Build awareness of children's cultural backgrounds and acknowledge and affirm differences.
Jun 29, 2020

What are some ways that teachers can bridge cultural gaps between themselves and their students? ›

Build a Sense of Community in the Classroom.

Make the classroom safe for everyone to voice their opinions by accepting all views as worthy of consideration. Teachers should avoid creating situations where students are placed in the position of being representative of their race.

How do teachers address the learning gaps? ›

Intervention approaches of this nature include developing individualised development and learning plans, providing one-on-one or very small group coaching or tuition, and, for older students, providing flexible learning options, pathways and transitions for older students.

How do you justify the gap in education answer? ›

The rationale for a gap in education should be well backed up by facts without making it sound dramatic or even negative, but with a clear view and focus on the positive way forward. It is crucial to be candid and truthful, while showing the value addition of the specific break, in terms of career goals or life goals.

How do you address cultural differences in the classroom? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

Why is it important to close the achievement gap? ›

The achievement gap matters because it grows over time, having a lasting impact on students, schools, and communities. Low-income students and black and Hispanic students are less likely to pass exams in math, reading, civics, and science.

How do you bridge a learning gap? ›

Here are a few strategies that educators can use to successfully bridge the gap in learning.
  1. Challenge Students at the Right Level. ...
  2. Consider Question Types. ...
  3. Look at the Knowns & Unknowns. ...
  4. Hold a Conversation with Previous Teachers. ...
  5. Review Previously Submitted Assignments. ...
  6. Conduct Group or One-on-one Interviews.
Aug 17, 2022

What is an example of an opportunity gap in education? ›

For example, students of color tend to be disproportionately represented in lower-level courses and special-education programs, and their academic achievement, graduation rates, and college-enrollment rates are typically lower than those of their white peers.

How do teachers deal with cultural differences? ›

One way teachers can honor cultural differences is by letting students from different cultures be the expert. Teaching other students about traditions, explaining the history and geography of countries and regions, and sharing cultural experiences are some ways to let these students know they are valued and welcome.

How can teachers be more culturally responsive in the classroom? ›

using students' cultural experiences in daily instruction. embracing native language and students' families as assets. creating a classroom environment that represents and respects all students. communicating clear high expectations for everyone.

What are two strategies teachers can use to identify learning gaps? ›

Check-in with students often to see what is working or not, and make modifications to the course based on their feedback. Ideas include: checking in during class verbally or with a classroom poll. surveying students with the Mid-Semester Feedback Program.

How do you answer a gap question? ›

How to Explain Gaps in Employment
  1. Honesty is the best policy. No matter why you've had a career break, it's hugely important to always be open and honest about the length of time off and the reason why. ...
  2. Clearly explain and plan your reasoning. ...
  3. Turn it into a positive. ...
  4. Get direct advice from professionals.

How do you answer a gap application question? ›

You want to be truthful without going into unnecessary detail. A basic template for your answer could be: “I [reason you were not employed]. During that time, [what you did during the gap]. Returning to work was top of mind during that period and I'm ready to do that now.”

How do you educate people to accept the differences of other cultures? ›

Respect for other cultures
  1. Self-awareness. Begin awareness that your culture is no more valuable or correct than anyone else's. ...
  2. Educate yourself. Expand your knowledge and cultural awareness by: ...
  3. Engage. While you may tend to gravitate to people who share your culture. ...
  4. Don't stereotype. ...
  5. Appreciate the differences.
Dec 5, 2022

How do I make my classroom more culturally inclusive? ›

Make the class a safe place for all students
  1. Establish a classroom in which teachers and students demonstrate mutual respect.
  2. Manage behaviour that might stimulate 'classroom incivilities':
  3. Establish inclusive class ground rules that safeguard against racism and harassment.

How can you be culturally responsive to students of different backgrounds? ›

7 Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
  1. Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
  2. Make learning contextual. ...
  3. Consider your classroom setup. ...
  4. Form relationships. ...
  5. Discuss social and political issues. ...
  6. Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
  7. Incorporate popular culture.
Nov 19, 2020

What does achievement gap mean in education? ›

What Is the Achievement Gap? The achievement gap is the persistent disparity in academic achievement between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts.

Why is there an achievement gap in education? ›

There are many causes of Achievement Gap – from racism, lack of acculturation, and socioeconomic status, to sexism and availability of technology. To make things even more complex, these factors all interact with one another, and often it's impossible to differentiate between their effects.

What is the achievement opportunity gap in education? ›

The Achievement gap says: “There is a difference here; some students are performing better on tests than others.” The Opportunity gap says: “There is a difference here that goes beyond student test performance.” The achievement recognizes that when students have adequate resources, support, and opportunities to succeed ...

How the teacher should do the bridging in teaching? ›

Bridging assessment is a process. It begins with the teacher observing children while they engage in activities in varied curricular areas. Teacher obser- vation is guided by specific rubrics that detail the developmental trajectories of children's learning and understanding in different subject areas.

What is bridging the gap examples? ›

to connect two things or to make the difference between them smaller: The president singled out education as a vital tool in bridging the gap between rich and poor. This collection of stories bridges the gap between history and fiction.

What does bridging the gap in education mean? ›

Meeting the needs of the whole child in our nation's public schools requires an integrated approach to include social, emotional, and academic learning.

How do you identify gaps in education? ›

Gaps may be defined as the difference between “the way things are” and “the way they should be”. The easiest gaps to identify are those relating to knowledge. Knowledge gaps can be identified by means of questionnaires or review of test scores from in training or board examinations.

What does closing the opportunity gap mean? ›

The opportunity gap is the way that uncontrollable life factors like race, language, economic, and family situations can contribute to lower rates of success in educational achievement, career prospects, and other life aspirations.

What are examples of achievement gaps? ›

The most commonly discussed achievement gap in the United States is the persistent disparity in national standardized-test scores between white and Asian-American students, two groups that score higher on average, and African-American and Hispanic students, two groups that score lower on average.

How do you overcome cultural barriers in the classroom? ›

Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers
  1. Adapt the educational system to reflect its multicultural and multilingual community.
  2. Acknowledge the unique ways that minority families are involved in their children's education.
  3. Consider the cultural and linguistic challenges families face to communicate with you and the school.

What is an example of a teacher using culturally responsive teaching? ›

For example, many societies and cultures have fireworks festivals. While such a festival runs, you could teach how to calculate speed using fireworks in sample questions. Establishing inclusion also involves regularly grouping students with different classmates, encouraging discussion to solve problems.

What are some culturally responsive teaching strategies? ›

The following practices provide five essential strategies for how educators can make their learning environments more culturally responsive.
  • Know your students. ...
  • Be aware of your own personal biases. ...
  • Transform your pedagogy and curriculum. ...
  • Respect and reinforce student culture. ...
  • Involve family and community.
Aug 31, 2020

How can a teacher deal with multicultural diversity? ›

Reading stories from different cultures and in various languages is the best way to promote multiculturalism in a classroom. You can choose stories that focus on characters from different cultures to help the students relate even more. Board games allow the students to interact with each other.

Why should teachers be culturally responsive? ›

It builds cultural competence.

An inclusive curriculum helps teachers and students understand different perspectives, appreciate others' strengths, and build empathy. Culturally responsive teaching can also help teachers reflect on how their own identity and experiences impact their attitudes and teaching practices.

Why do teachers need to learn about culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally responsive teaching recognises and deeply values the richness of the cultural knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom as a resource for developing multiple perspectives and ways of knowing.

What is the most important element in culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally responsive teaching also must have an element of critical consciousness, where students are empowered to critique and analyze societal inequities.

What are 3 characteristics of culturally responsive teaching? ›

These four practices are: (1) that teachers are empathetic and caring; (2) that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures; (3) that they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference; and (4) that they are knowledgeable about other cultures.

What do culturally responsive teachers do to support diverse learners? ›

WHAT PRACTICES ARE CONSIDERED CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE? acknowledging the contributions of all students and soliciting feedback from students on improving relationships, classroom culture, and instruction.

What should the teachers do to improve students achievement? ›

10 Classroom Strategies to Dramatically Improve Student Achievement
  1. Establish a climate of mutual respect. ...
  2. Set high and clear expectations for quality work. ...
  3. Insist on high quality by having students polish their work. ...
  4. Get students to read twice as much every day. ...
  5. Get students to write twice as much every day.
Oct 31, 2017

How teacher improve student achievement? ›

  1. Set High Expectations.
  2. Focus on Student Achievement.
  3. Expect Hard Work.
  4. Engage in Strategic Planning.
  5. Cultivate Effective School Boards.

What can teachers do to raise pupil achievement? ›

Improving weak teaching may be one of the most effective means of raising pupil achievement. However, teachers' classroom practices and the teaching 'process' may matter more to student learning than teachers' observed résumé characteristics (such as certification and experience).

How can a teacher impact student achievement? ›

A recent study shows just how important fostering those skills is: Teachers who help students improve noncognitive skills such as self-regulation raise their grades and likelihood of graduating from high school more than teachers who help them improve their standardized test scores do.

What are the 5 qualities of a good teacher? ›

Characteristics of a good teacher.
  • Patient and approachable. They say that 'patience is a virtue', and this couldn't be more true for teachers. ...
  • Enthusiastic. ...
  • Strong communication skills. ...
  • Strong knowledge and a solid education. ...
  • Disciplined and professional.
Mar 1, 2022

What should a teacher need to improve? ›

In-Classroom Suggestions for Teacher Improvement
  • Start small, think big. ...
  • Utilize the latest technologies. ...
  • Prioritize student relationships. ...
  • Empower parents to be your ally. ...
  • Ensure your curriculum knowledge.

How can teachers maintain a focus on teaching and learning? ›

These include: Essential questions, which are used to determine the goal of lessons. Activating strategy, which is a method teachers use to get students excited about and connecting the content to their own lives. Relevant vocabulary, which refers to using vocabulary that students understand.

What are the three most critical elements to improve student achievement in your classroom? ›

Five Tips to Increase Student Achievement
  • Align instructions to learning standards. ...
  • Include formative assessment. ...
  • Provide consistent feedback. ...
  • Use the feedback loop concept. ...
  • Self-assess regularly.
Mar 27, 2017

How do you motivate students? ›

Additional Strategies for Motivating Students
  1. Become a role model for student interest. ...
  2. Get to know your students. ...
  3. Use examples freely. ...
  4. Use a variety of student-active teaching activities. ...
  5. Set realistic performance goals and help students achieve them by encouraging them to set their own reasonable goals.

What can you do as a teacher to promote quality education? ›

To meet the big expectations of this noble career path, check out the following tips:
  • Attend Education-Related Seminars and Workshops.
  • Prepare an Effective Visual Aid.
  • Acknowledge the Individual Needs of Students.
  • Provide Motivation and Rewards for Student Accomplishments.
  • Learn to Find Purpose in the Teaching Profession.
Aug 31, 2022

What are three things teachers can do to help students? ›

This blog examines six ways teachers can help students be successful throughout the school year.
  • Lead by Example. Even children know that actions speak louder than words. ...
  • Seek to be Restorative. ...
  • Support Inclusion. ...
  • Teach Emotional Self-Regulation.
Mar 17, 2021

What is most important for a teacher? ›

Dedication. One of the most important parts of teaching is having dedication. Teachers not only listen, but also coach and mentor their students. They are able to help shape academic goals and are dedicated to getting their students to achieve them.

How teachers make a difference in students lives? ›

Inspire Them and Be Role Models

Teachers challenge students to think outside the box and take on new challenges with confidence. They are also there to support students when they take risks and fail – an important lesson students need to learn to succeed in life.

What are the values as a teacher? ›

Tirri's (2010) recent research on teacher values that inform professional ethics and relationship identifies caring and respect, professionalism and commitment, and cooperation.


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