Enforcing quotas for BME teachers would help schools lead on equalities agenda - Angela Rayner

Posted On: 
26th September 2017

Shadow Secretary for Education Angela Rayner argued in favour of hard quotas for BME teachers in schools at a NASUWT fringe event at Labour Party Conference. 

Credit: 
PA

The Shadow Secretary for Education Angela Rayner has argued that she is an ‘advocate’ for implementing hard quotas to ensure better representation of BME teachers and “role models” in schools. Rayner made the comments during an NASUWT panel discussion assessing the ability of UK schools to lead on the equalities agenda. 

Asked whether the current school system was fit to lead the equalities agenda, she responded, “In my usual blunt Northern way no, at this moment they are not.” 

She claimed that a lack of BME role models in schools was of particular concern.  

“If the only people we see in schools that are black or ethnic minority are the cleaners… then we are perpetuating the problems we have in our communities… the racist, homophobic, and misogynistic environments that we are all in.” 

“Schools are a microcosm of what is happening in our homes and communities, but they are in a unique place to challenge and change the perceptions that young people have.” 

“We have to make our institutions look more like wider society.” 

Attacking the current attempts to reduce inequality in the education system, she said, “I am sick of soft targets. I am all for hard targets, and if it means we have to force quotas, then I am an advocate for that.”  

She defended the use of quotas by referencing her own experience with the parliamentary selection process. 

“I would have never become a Member of Parliament if it had not been for an all-woman shortlist. I have stood in an open shortlist before, and I was the best candidate, but the man won.” 

Speaking ahead of her conference speech on Labour’s proposed National Education Service (NES), she thanked NASUWT for allowing her to ‘plagiarise’ some of their work on education equality, promising that the proposed service would “not only identify the inequality in our society… but would actually break down the barriers, instead of creating more.” 

Also speaking to the packed-out audience at the Hilton Metropole was NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates, who claimed that decades of campaigning to advance the equalities agenda was being undermined by the current Government. 

“It grieves me deeply, and angers me, to see how quickly this Government have been able to roll back advances made in equality legislation.” 

“We now face an education service that is ridden with inequality... we need an eternal vigilance to show this Government what the consequences of their actions are.” 

She argued that the wider policy agenda embarked upon by the Conservative Government was having a significant impact on the education system. 

“It is selection by wealth, and that is the only way to describe it. We believe that it is rife across the entire education system.” 

“No child should be denied access to education opportunities because their parents can’t pay.” 

“It is a disgrace that in the 5th largest economy in the world that this is the situation we are facing because of the callous fiscal, social, and education policies that we have had to endure over the last seven years.” 

Ms Keates also concluded that schools under the current system were not fit to lead on the equalities agenda. 

“There is a huge gap in Government, and in many cases, they are not even paying lip service to the equalities agenda. This is quite clear because there is so much inequality in the system.” 

“We need to get back to a time where our education system is an education system for all children.” 

The Government’s Prevent strategy, created to identify individuals at risk of radicalisation, was also criticised by the panel for damaging the progress of the equalities agenda. 

Dr Zubaida Haque, a research consultant at The Runnymede Trust, argued that the Prevent Strategy had encouraged teachers to spy on Islamic children, while leaving them unprepared to deal with other forms of racism and discrimination. 

“Pupils, especially around Brexit time, felt that they could be openly racist, using the n-word in lessons and teachers felt impotent to challenge them. They could challenge them about extremism…but they didn’t feel equipped to deal with racism is schools.” 

“This is something that the Government has really neglected, that Prevent has overwhelmed.” 

Chris Keates concluded that Prevent was an example of a very important process put in place on the basis of “media headlines driven by islamophobia”, and that implementing it had been such a significant problem for teachers that NASUWT had to produce their own guidance to help members through the process.