Intersectional Barriers that maintain institutionalised racism and prevent community cohesion in schools

There is a general assumption that merely encouraging people to mix in an urban context will result in positive interaction and community cohesion (Hemming, 2011:65). This certainly does not work in a school context. Moreover, there are systemic and institutionalised barriers that prevent inclusion and multicultural community cohesion in schools in England. This section will identify significant barriers that impact community cohesion and integration within multicultural and disadvantaged, urban secondary schools in England.

Policy and Government

In 2013, the government institutionalised policies relating to community cohesion, which became a statutory duty for schools in England Jones (2013). However, there was a lack of policy framework available for long term community cohesion strategies (Engel, 2013). This gave schools the autonomy to set their own priorities and strategies relating to community cohesion (Engel, 2013). This has led to community cohesion policies being interpreted in different ways, depending on the school context and in some cases, even saw an increase in social segregation due to the interpretation of the broad guidelines. Some examples of poor interpretation of community cohesion policies that have a negative impact on learners are; Community cohesion policies being used as a platform for social advantage, where some ethnically diverse schools who sought to attract white middle class parents for a multicultural ‘experience’, without doing anything to combat social inequality actually contributed towards social segregation within their schools (Kirkham, 2016); schools failing to manage issues of diversity, identity and social cohesion (Rhamie, 2012); and ineffective induction and integration of migrants into the school population (Lumby, 2016).

On a macro level, policies that relate to community cohesion need to be clearly distinguished so the data is comparable and measured for their success (Runnymede, 2018). Community cohesion policies being driven by a minimalist interpretation of requirements (Wilkins, 2014) have not led to any changes in the functioning and daily realities of the school (Gillborn, 2008). This resulted in a legacy of community cohesion policies being a low priority on a micro level within the school. The success of community cohesion practices is now reliant on individual schools’ equality, diversity and inclusion policies and how these are implemented by the practitioners within the school (Engel, 2013).


Ofsted is a neutral professional body used to regulate care and education for young people (Mogra, 2016). In 2008, it began to inspect schools’ contribution towards community cohesion. The assessment criterion focusing on community cohesion was integrated into OFSTED school inspections. This only lasted until 2010, as it was decided by parliament that they will no longer inspect community cohesion (Engel, 2013). Instead, there is now a focus on how equality and diversity is implemented within the school.

The term ‘Community Cohesion’ has been removed in the latest Ofsted school inspection handbook, although practitioners still have the duty to promote community cohesion within their schools. The focus is now on equality and diversity for those with protected characteristics within the school and the wider community.

Wilkins’ (2014) study argues how Ofsted have failed to use performative accountability layers to address race equality issues. Recommendations were suggested for Ofsted to define inspections guidelines, restore their impartiality within educational matters (Mogra, 2016) and to revise the Ofsted guidance for inspection relating to equality and diversity (Wilkins, 2014) to cater more towards multicultural communities  

The Curriculum

The National Curriculum (NC) is a framework consisting of a range of subjects and assessment criteria used in primary and secondary schools to enable continuity (DfE,2018). It was introduced during the conservative administration, under Thatcher’s government. It is argued that schools are still influenced by neo-liberal discourse which has a negative impact on educational structures (Saltman, 2014). Similarly, Peters (2015: 643) identified that the curriculum is racialised as white was fundamental to the development of capitalism.  Neoliberal approaches to education have resulted in the reduction of a diverse curriculum (Saltman, 2014). This has resulted in a restrictive assessment and framework that does not meet the needs of all learners (Lumby, 2016)

There is currently a lack of anti-racist education – a program designed to eliminate the clarification of people based on skin colour (Peters, 2015) and culturally inclusive diet within the national learning activities within the NC, which is fundamental to combatting racist attitudes, consequently having a negative impact on Community Cohesion.

The NC is framed in an anglocentric perspective where ‘victors’ have written the history and defined the narrative (Richardson, 2007). Text books used to support topics within the curriculum are primarily written by white publishing companies such as NCS Pearson and McGraw Hill Education, who have been accused of normalising a white ethnocentric narrative (Saltman, 2014; Peters, 2015; Gillborn, 2008).

Extract from Mcgraw Education text book. Slave described as slaves as “workers” appears in a McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook.

For example, McGraw Hill Education have been recently accused of downplaying slavery by reinventing the narrative that African Slaves were ‘agricultural workers’, implying that they were migrants benefiting from the economy (Dart, 2015). This is an example of the ‘racial erasure’ described by Bain (2018:14) which includes the erasure of white racism within the curriculum by the elimination of non-white contributors and whitewashing atrocity.

Over 61% of secondary schools in England have become acadamised (Local Government Association, 2017), therefore they do not have to follow the NC. This gives Academies the potential to modernise the curriculum to reflect the global population of the school. This will eventually develop an inclusive ethos of learners understanding a range of different cultures that, in theory, will increase positive relations and community cohesion within the school. With a range of different cultural backgrounds and nationalities in England, it is essential for the curriculum to reflect global society and to relate to the increasing global audience.

The NC is content driven and is therefore harder to accommodate those from a BAME background (Lumby,2016). However, there have been changes in the NC as an attempt to reflect the changes in society. These changes are described as ‘tinkering’ by Hayden (2013) – used as ‘bolt-ons’ to the curriculum such as; citizenship (Pike, 2007); British Values agenda (Rhamie, 2012); and the controversial Prevent strategy (Alam, 2013) – all designed for BAME learners to assimilate to British ideals, rather than a dynamic reform to cater for the global community.

Hayden’s (2013), comprehensive review on the international school’s curriculum concluded that International schools could be used as a bench mark for a curriculum reform to reflect society and ensuring Global contributors are present in each subject. This is a long-term solution that needs to be made on a macro level for a dynamic and inclusive global curriculum to foster genuine positive community cohesion within the school environment. On a Micro level, Schools could integrate multiple perspectives to topics within the NC to make it more inclusive for BAME learners and examine the curriculum to ensure that whiteness is not the norm (by) which everything is measured (Lumby, 2016:117). 

Staff representation

There are various challenges associated with staffing that affect community cohesion within schools. When a school has predominantly white staff and white students, it tends to take longer for them to embed equality and diversity into all aspects of the school (Richardson, 2007); 20% of teachers employed in the most disadvantaged schools leave each year, as opposed to 15% of teachers within the least disadvantaged schools (Allen, 2018). Consequently, this leads to high staff turnover that impacts student attainment and any progress made towards cultural inclusion.

BGM teachers are vastly underrepresented as practitioners in all levels of education in the UK. Within a secondary school context, latest published Figures have revealed that only 6.9% are in a leadership position and 13.5% in teaching roles (DfE, 2016), including teaching and leadership positions (Lumby, 2016). Nationally, 30.3% of pupils are from a minority ethnic background (DfE, 2017). Correspondingly, there is a discrepancy between a large amount of BAME learners and a small amount of BAME teachers which is a concern, as BAME learners need BAME role models to break through the ‘concrete ceiling’ and challenge cultural negative stereotypes of BAME staff being in subordinate roles within schools (Lumby, 2007). This is due to poor retention rates and the lack of BAME teachers joining the profession (Wilkins, 2014).

On the contrary, from a macro perspective it may be perceived as problematic if the ratios of BAME staff did reflect BAME students, due to the threat of minorities representing a challenge to majority traditional values within a Neoliberal framework that has been designed to sustain inequality (Gillborn, 2008; Mogra, 2016).

Residential Segregation

New migrants are often sent to community housing and developing migrant hotspots that are predominantly located within disadvantaged, working-class communities (Finney, 2009).  During 2017 there was an increased level of migration into Europe and a growth in BAME learners who now equate to 32.1% of pupils in Primary schools and 29.1% in secondary schools in England (DfE, 2017). This has had a direct impact on school choice and has increased the influence of ‘white flight’, a term used by Hemming (2011) where white parents opt out of schools that have a high population of migrant children and children with EAL (Lumby, 2016). 

This has resulted in schools that have a large cohort of EAL students and migrants being viewed as undesirable, whilst mono-ethnic schools with a high white population have become oversubscribed as discussed by Lumby (2016). In some cases, schools have the opportunity to select the highest attainers, further discriminating against migrants and this has a clear negative impact on community cohesion (Lumby, 2016)

However, some schools are now promoting multiculturalism as ‘commodity or beneficial resource’ (Kirkham, 2016: 385). Kirkham (2016) investigates the multiculturalism trend and researches a school, that actively seeks to track white middle-class parents who want a diverse multicultural education to gain a reality of the future of living as global citizens.

Social economic

Class and race are intersecting characteristics that influence community cohesion. In the previous section, we discussed how and when the BAME school population increases, the white middle-class population decreases (Keddie, 2014). Therefore, migrant learners are often segregated with children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Runnymede, 2018; Lumby, 2016).

Social economic background is another barrier that impacts positive relationships and cohesion in areas that have long term unemployment and have a high risk of economic marginalisation and social exclusion (Flint, 2008).

Mcghee (2006) argues that community cohesion strategies outlined by government focus on the improvement of race inequality and integration of new migrants, which has taken precedence over, and excludes, existing white disadvantaged host communities in England. Subsequently, causing hostility that negatively impacts community cohesion. As a result, schools are at risk of concentrating solely on ethnic diversity and excluding class diversity (Kirkham, 2016), this is where tensions between schools and beliefs of parents could clash causing social segregation. 

To improve this injustice, Lumby (2016:61) suggests how schools can start to analyse the degree to which segregation by socioeconomic class and other intersecting characteristics are present in the school. This would be a suitable start to devise a long-term solution for positive community cohesion.

2.5 Summary and Emerging Issues

To conclude this section, the study of literature relating to institutionalised barriers relating to community cohesion has revealed that:

Macro Level

  • Historically, the political system in England maintains the power and resources that has a rhetoric of ‘white ignorance’ that contributes to white benefit and non-white disadvantage (Bain, 2018:10), therefore it was not designed to support multicultural England.
  • Government initiatives focused on community cohesion and inclusion have ultimately led to intersecting systematic inequalities that has compromised policies designed to integrate multicultural communities.
  • Policies designed to manage Multicultural communities within schools have been subject to interpretation of the policies that have a colour-blind undertone (Lumby, 2008), concealed under the veneer of government requirements. 

Micro Level

  • Schools need to create more opportunities that aid community cohesion and positive relationships between different cultural groups and need to further investigate equality, diversity and social justice within secondary education.
  • Barriers: to community cohesion within the school include lack of framework from the government, (Runnymede, 2018; Gillborn, 2008 the removal of community cohesion in the Ofsted assessment framework (Mogra, 2016; Wilkins, 2014); anglocentric colour-blind curriculum within schools (Lumby, 2016), under-representation of BAME staff (Richardson, 2007) , issues relating to residential segregation within inner city areas (Kirkham, 2016) and social economic marginalisation (Richardson, 2007).
  • A cultural approach within schools, by focusing on equality and diversity that will result in positive community cohesion, so all community groups are supported within schools (Lumby, 2016).

(All citations can be found in the bibliography)

Multicultural Britain: Assimilation, Community Cohesion and Discriminatory Policies

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2.2 History of Multicultural Britain


Britain has always been ethnically diverse. As early as C100BC, during Roman rule, African auxiliary soldiers featured in the Roman army protecting Hadrian’s Wall (Dabydeen et al, 2007). Ethnic diversity began to increase in England during the expansion of the British Empire.  This expansion resulted in colonial warfare, including the exploitation, murder and human trafficking of Africans during the transatlantic slave trade from 1562 – 1833 (Williams, 2005; Eddo Lodge, 2017; Gillborn, 2008). The colonised countries under the British Empire were used to substantiate Britain’s power and wealth; the leading nation in comparison to her international counterparts (Paul, 1997).

During the First World War, 15,600 African / African-Caribbean soldiers and over 74,000 Indian soldiers from British Colonies died in the conflict, many serving under the false promise of political reform and freedom from colonial rule in their countries (Eddo-Lodge, 2017). Consequently, the BAME population increased in Britain to around 10,000 under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, which gave Black and Asian colonial migrants the same rights as ‘natural born citizens’ Dabydeen et al, 2007:176). However, this was contradicted by military law that classed all non-whites as ‘aliens’, presenting racialized barriers and restrictions, which caused race fuelled riots against the Black presence in Britain in 1919 (Eddo-Lodge, 2017; Dabydeen et al, 2007; Belchem, 2014; Paul, 2007).

Due to larger economic and political objectives, the decolonisation of the British Empire began post Second World War (Paul, 1997; Belchem, 2014). The British Immigration act was passed in 1948, the same year that 492 Black Caribbeans travelling on the Windrush docked in Essex, England with the aim of restoring post-war Britain (Eddo Lodge, 2017). This was the introduction of ‘mass immigration’, where 1.2 million New Commonwealth citizens of British colonised commonwealth states immigrated to England and Wales between 1948 until the mid-1970’s (Mason, 2003).

The term immigrant was used to define the ‘already settled population as homogenous’ post Second Word War (Mason 2003:16). Whilst some countries were discussing making ‘immigrants’ citizens, Britain was doing the reverse (Paul, 1997). However, these immigrants were essentially colonial migrants with the rights to gain British Citizenship, regardless of where they resided within the empire (Thorns, 2002; Paul, 2007; Dabydeen et al, 2007). Most of the migrants were black and brown, mainly from African and South Asian descent. Due to the ‘unrecognisable’ differences and intersections of different characteristics such as languages, culture and religion, these people of ‘colour’ were labelled as ‘ethnically different’ in comparison to their white counterparts (Mason, 2003). This was the strategy used to preserve white British purity and, as a result, colonial migrants were ignored and excluded from parts of society (Myers, 2016:17).

In 1962 and 1968 the Commonwealth Immigration act was introduced with the aim of limiting the immigration of Black and Asian colonial migrants into Britain. This coincided with widespread practice in British schools of labelling black children as educationally sub normal in comparison to their white counterparts, leading to the systematic failing of black children within the British Educational system. (Richardson, 2007; Gillborn, 2008)

Migration into the UK has had its trials and tribulations for BAME communities, due to racialized policies designed to contain and preserve the whiteness in host communities (Gillborn, 2008). This presents a problem as the policies designed to ‘contain’ were of the same government that designed the policies to integrate multicultural communities within our schools. This is discussed further in the next section.

2.3 Race and Education Policy

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To understand how community cohesion policies were introduced by the government and how they have impacted our school, it is important to understand the history of how government policy discourse has reacted to the change in multicultural demographics post 1970 in the UK, and how it has become progressively obsessed with the social control of BAME communities (Gillborn, 2008).



Image result for white class black child

Assimilation policies were introduced around the same time as the introduction of major immigration laws in the UK in 1965. Assimilation policies introduced in the UK were the act of denying cultural difference, as it was deemed that Black culture and beliefs were inferior compared to their white counterparts (Lumby, 2007). Consequently, this created a racialized structure of hierarchy that re-enforced white European superiority over migrants from BAME heritages (Paul 2007).

It has been suggested that the assimilation process could have been hindered by migrants unwilling to invest in the country based on their temporary status within it (Demireva, 2011). This might have been accurate for a handful of cases, however, the general attitude from the government and society during this time was to promote assimilation and the eradication of cultural differences (Gillborn, 2008). This has had a direct impact on education as BAME children, in particular, Black Caribbean children were the subject of systematic discrimination and failed by the British Educational system (Richardson, 2007; Gillborn, 2008). Many children of African Caribbean heritage were the labeled ‘educationally subnormal’, and thus were excluded from mainstream schools (Richardson, 2007).



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Integration was assimilation by a new name (Gillborn, 2008:). Educational policies which deemed ‘minorities’ as a problem, remained to serve the main objective of assimilating BAME groups (Gillborn, 2008).  In 1971, the Immigration Act was passed, influenced by racist attitudes in society (Dabydeen, 2007; Finney, 2009).


This resulted in anti-immigration activities, supported by political groups, causing thousands of racial attacks and cases of racial harassment against Black and Asian people (Dabydeen, 2007). Within the school context, the onus was on BAME pupils to integrate with the majority, with little or no intervention and guidance provided on a macro or micro level, as stated by Eric Bolton, the Chief inspector of schools at the time (Gillborn, 2008). Subsequently, BAME students were isolated both within the classroom and wider society.



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Multiculturalism policy programmes were designed as a ‘solution’ to support cultural differences and remove discriminatory barriers for migrants and BAME communities (Fleras, 2009). These were first introduced in the early 1980s and went through many revisions under different political parties; from the introduction of colour-blind policies under Thatcherism to the highlighting of the inequalities associated with BAME learners under the New Labour administration in 2007 (Gillborn, 2008). Post-9/11, there was widespread criticism of policies relating to Multiculturalism, which led to the concept’s demise (Heath, 2014). Flares (2009) discussed that multiculturalism policies were another method of control, a political tool where the “ruling elites, control the ‘unruly ethnics’”. Consequently, it presented tokenistic recognition towards BAME, but ultimately marginalised migrants further with neutral, colour-blind policies (Belchem, 2014).  Whereas, Health’s (2014) study into multiculturalism concluded that ethnoreligious groups made successful claims of ethnic integration during the multiculturalism era, despite the negative rhetoric associated with the policy.


Community Cohesion

Image result for bradford riots

Community cohesion was a political concept that replaced the multiculturalism agenda and entered mainstream national policy (Flint, 2008; Rhamie, 2012). The policy emerged in 2001-02 under the Labour government (Jones, 2013) and made a shift from integration back to assimilating to the host community (Samad 2013). Over the years, the term has been institutionalised in the UK through policy and statutory duties in schools (Jones, 2013:4). The policy was introduced after the racial disturbances in Northern British cities in 2001 (Rhamie, 2012; Alam, 2013; Samad, 2013) and the London bombings in 2005 as a strategy to integrate Muslims into the community (Rhamie, 2012; Samad, 2013:273). However, as discussed by (Jones, 2013), the policy was framed as if the main focus was issues relating to segregation and separation between cultures.

The term community cohesion lacked conceptual clarity (Jones, 2013). Subsequently, there have been many interpretations of the term as the policy has changed over time. To add to the ambiguity of community cohesion, the PREVENT strategy was introduced around the same time. This was a strategy that was focused on counter-terrorism and extremism Samad (2013). This was separate from the community cohesion agenda; however, the agenda targeted the same communities using the same professionals across the two programmes inside and outside of the classroom Samad (2013). This gave community cohesion a negative connotation within BAME communities. Conversely, Mcghee (2006) discusses that the community cohesion strategies, which focused on the improvement of race inequality and integration of new migrants, took precedence over and excluded existing white disadvantaged host communities in England, subsequently causing hostility that negatively impacts community cohesion.

Looking through the lens of the government, the Community Cohesion policy was an attempt to help support people to take individual responsibility to make the right choices and nurture an environment where different cultures interact with each other. It was hoped that this would result in positive inter-cultural relationships and contributions towards society both for individual benefit and the overall social good (Jones, 2013). However, the policy was based on ideology rather than being evidence-based (Flint, 2008).  The ambiguity of the language and terminology interchanging between race and class has resulted in fragmentation, which served to reinforce the hierarchical institutionalised narrative that has prioritised white nationals over BAME communities.


Current situation


Despite the number of immigrants into Britain steadily decreasing every year since 2015, (a reduction of 25,000 immigrants and an increase of 40,000 emigrants (Office for National Statistics, 2017; Finney, 2009), major concerns about immigration remain, creating a new, national fear of the re-emergence of the ‘multiculturalism identity’. This has been used as political rhetoric relating to multiculturalism and controls on immigration have been personified in the latest political campaigns from Conservative and Labour governments (Eddo lodge, 2017). This ‘fear’ was used in Brexit anti-immigration rhetoric from the middle right wing and political parties using statements such as ‘preserving our national identity’ (Eddo Lodge, 2017:119). This public and policy discourse has impacted migrants and BAME children in school, as some teachers have started to raise concerns about students who have failed to assimilate to British culture (Keddie, 2014).


According to Lord Ashcroft (2016) voting polls of how people voted during the EU referendum, 80% of voters who believed that multiculturalism and immigration were a burden to society voted to leave the European Union. Consequently, there has been a 53% increase in race-related hate crime in UK schools (Camden, 2017). This has resulted in BAME learners being more likely to experience racist bullying than their white counterparts (Bain, 2018). With such an increase, a focus on integration and community cohesion is more important than ever.




As discussed by Gillborn (2008), policymakers seem to have amnesia as policies are reincarnated. Policies have been reactionary, influenced by events related to race and integration and there is the likelihood that, as revised policies are reintroduced, there will be a focus on assimilation and integration in reaction to Brexit. Since the 1950s, the government has failed to place equality and diversity at the center of social and educational policy (Gillborn, 2008). This has highlighted a serious issue relating to equality, diversity and community cohesion within schools in the UK and so it is unsurprising that there is a demand for a new dynamic cohesion strategy in schools and communities that better reflects the global community in England.


Issues of race in Secondary Education: Breaking through the concrete ceiling

Dwain Brandy


Black Asian Minority Ethnic (abbreviated to BAME) practitioners are disproportionately under-represented in leadership positions in Secondary schools in England. There is a lack of inclusivity within the literature supporting the Distributed Leadership (DL) theory; power is currently distributed using the literature as a guidance which has implications due to a colorblind approach (Mabokela and Madsen, 2003) that fails to address issues of race and diversity. This study argues that institutionalized barriers within the recruitment process contribute towards the lack of BAME practitioners in leadership positions, examines the barriers for entry and discusses how the DL structure requires a new outlook in order to become inclusive for all practitioners. This paper concludes with the critical analysis of leadership development programs that are used to support BAME practitioners.


There is increasing concern that Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) teachers are under-represented in all levels of education in England. Furthermore, they are less likely to be promoted into leadership positions compared to their white counterparts (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013; Coleman, 2010; Bush et al, 2006; Steel, 2015; DfE, 2015b). BAME practitioners appointed in leadership positions in secondary schools are only 3.6%, whilst BAME learner numbers have increased since 2006, 27.9% of learners in secondary schools are now from BAME origins (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013, DfE, 2016c). There is an urgent need to address the diversity of teachers in leadership positions within schools to highlight the changing demographic of the student population (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014). A diverse leadership team represents the expectation of equality for learners and creates positive stereotypes as opposed to the subordinate roles that are often associated to staff from BAME origin as discussed by Lumby (2008: 2,19). The statistics present a major concern; the ratio of BAME leaders to BAME students is disproportionate compared to that of their White counterparts.

This report will critically investigate the systematic barriers in education that prevent BAME teachers from attaining a leadership position in secondary schools. The first section of this assignment identifies barriers that a BAME group faces throughout the recruitment process, focusing on labelling, characteristics and discrimination. It will then go on to critically analyse barriers relating to inclusivity associated to the Distributed Leadership framework. It will then proceed to identify the gaps and areas of disregard when addressing issues of equality for BAME groups. Finally, it will analyse dedicated leadership programmes and the use role modelling used to support BAME practitioners.

Barriers and Limitations

Ethnicity and labelling


BAME is the latest terminology used to summarize ethnic groups in England. The main characteristic that people associated to the BAME group have in common, is that they are non-white British within the UK (Lumby and Coleman, 2016; Gillborn, 2008). Aspinal’s (2002) work on collective terminology is complemented by Richardson (2006). The research argues that using the label BAME could present limitations as the term Minority has connotations of inferiority, whilst the majority, being white people, belong to a single dominant group. Whilst the use of Black and Asian does not imply that the two ethnic groups belong to a minority. Ethnic grouping does not cater for the individual needs of different ethnic backgrounds. For example, issues of islamophobia as discussed by (Shah, 2010) is typically directed at Muslims commonly from an Eastern Asian origin may not apply to other ethnic groups within the BAME group. Therefore, issues need to be addressed independently rather than being placed in ‘ethnic groups’ (Corrigan, 2013; Gunter, 2004; Lumby, 2013) as it fails to cater for particular needs of individual ethnic groups.

Conversely, labels can be useful in highlighting areas of discrimination that ordinarily may be missed. If ethnic groups were not differentiated through the use of different labels, it would be more difficult to identify disparities within the education system for different groups of people. Together the studies from Aspinal (2002) and Richardson (2006) provide important insights into the limitations associated to terminology used to label collective ethnic groups. By adopting a more specific labelling system to cater to the needs of individual ethnicities, this might be a possible solution to break the stigma and negativity associated to the existing labels. This is further justified by the diversity of pupil demographics within the school sector in the UK. This view is supported by Lumby and Coleman (2016:108) who draws on the work of Campbell Stevens (2009), who has proposed the new appropriate term, Black and Global Majority (BGM).

Discrimination: Negative vs Positive

Various forms of discrimination (subtle and overt) could negatively impact the progression of BAME teachers going into leadership position as argued by Steel (2015). Studies by Bush et al (2006), Coleman & Campbell Stevens (2010) and Steel (2015) calls our attention to negative discrimination experienced by BAME senior leaders. The practitioners experienced discrimination through racism, negative stereotyping, isolation (Ogunbawo, 2012), low expectations and marginalization into roles relating to ethnicity. Positive discrimination has enabled some BAME practitioners to progress into leadership roles, and have found it advantageous Bush et al (2006). This has been supported by Ofsted Chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw who states in an interview; –

‘If I had two people applying for a job of equal merit and I felt we needed to increase the number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds to the staff then I would apply positive discrimination – as long as the two people were of equal merit’ (BBC News, 2015: unpaged)

Cases of positive discrimination are rare compared to the negative discrimination yet has a negative impact on BAME practitioners Ogunbawo (2012). Similarly, Coleman & Campbell Stevens (2010) study with BAME leaders in education concludes that positive discrimination is generally resented as it is counterproductive and has been used to benefit BAME practitioners on an individual basis. A long term solution has been suggested by Lumby, (2016) by schools creating and inclusive ethos that is reflected through training, policies and leadership structures.


Research confirms characteristics relating to race gender, religion and ethnicity have become barriers for progression for BAME (NASUWT and National College 2009; Steel, 2015; Coleman, 2010). Examples of barriers for progression related to characteristics is documented in the early work of Bass (1990), who outlined characteristics that are advantageous to becoming a successful leader. Social background and physical characteristics are two examples documented within the literature that are desirable attributes in increasing a leader’s chances of success.

Not all characteristics are accessible, resulting in inequality as agued by Di Tomaso and Hooijerg, (1996: 173-4) cited Gunter (2006) who states that native born white males have an advantage over other ethnicities in regards to higher paid jobs and promotions. Females in leadership positions are also disproportionately under-represented when compared to white males as discussed by Lumby and Coleman (2007), Fitzgerald (2003), Grant (2005) and Davidson (1992). However, complications arise for BAME females as further implications arise relating to gender and breaking through the concrete ceiling (Davidson, 1997) as biological characteristics relate to gender, whilst race also contributes to the additional discrimination (Coleman and Campbell Stevens, 2010). Leithwood, (2009) reviews traits and cognitive characteristics that are synonymous to leadership in education, but fail to mention characteristics that affect individuals of BAME origin. This is an example of a neutral race free pattern that is common in published literature focusing on Educational leadership. This fails to address characteristics that could be subjected to discrimination as argued by Lumby (2013). It includes ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion; presenting additional barriers for entry before even starting the application stage as discussed by (Coleman & Campbell Stevens, 2010).


Barriers within the recruitment process impact the progression of BAME teachers. Cultural barriers (Steel, 2015), Age (Bush et al, 2006; Coleman, 2010), Gender (Davidson, 1997), Ethnicity (Wilkins & Lall, 2011), Self-Confidence (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013), Isolation and exclusion (Ogunbawo, 2012) are common barriers that prevent BAME practitioners from achieving a leadership position in education, explored by NASUWT and National College (2009). This combined with intersectionality, the focus of multiple characteristics (Lumby and Coleman, 2016), presents a complex picture for BAME practitioners to become appointed into senior roles in education.

During the recruitment process, Intersectionality (Lumby and Coleman, 2016) combined with unconscious bias (Beattie, 2012) is a recipe that could impact BAME applicants through negative discrimination. BAME practitioners are more likely to be stereotyped and profiled during a pre-selection process when applying for a role (Tillman, 2012). In a study by Bertrand and Muller (2004), a thousand resumes with a range of identities with the same credentials were sent out. The resumes contained Caucasian American sounding names and traditional African American names. The study found that White Americans had a 50% advantage of being selected over African Americans.

An example of good practice for encouraging diversity exists at the University of Manchester (University of Manchester, 2016), during the recruitment process they use an Implicit Association Test Beattie (2012), which measures unconscious attitudes to create a fairer employment procedure. A similar system in the secondary education recruitment process would be beneficial to promote quality and diversity. Similarly, the government funded charity, Teach First (2015), has restricted the occurrence of unconscious bias within their own recruitment. Through the ‘Name Blind’ process, a cohort of BAME trainee teachers has increased to 15%. This is evidence that similar ‘nameless’ systems should be considered as policy across the UK workforce as it promotes diversity and reduces discrimination.

Distributed Leadership


Previous research has established that literature supporting the Distributed Leadership (DL) Theory has failed to acknowledge potential issues relating to inclusion, such as race, gender or religion, therefore creating barriers within the structure preventing BAME practitioners being appointed into leadership positions (Lumby 2013). Lumby has also argued that content in leading literature concerning DL, has failed to address fundamental issues of race and gender. Instead, the literature has been designed for practitioners with a unified identity, creating a delusional stance of inclusivity that ultimately excludes members of the BAME community (Gunter, 2004; Lumby, 2013; Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2013).

DL has become the normative Leadership model in Education (Preedy, 2016; Spillane, 2006; Gunter et al, 2013). Functional approaches attached to the theory were designed to remove dysfunction (Gunter, 2013), so if problems occur, there is a system implemented to distribute responsibilities through to secondary leaders. This has eased the pressure for Headteachers/Principals (Hartley, 2010). Theoretically, this structure is designed to be inclusive, as the label insinuates, and is at the ‘cutting edge’ of thinking about leadership activity in schools’ (Harris, 2003:125). Ultimately, this is not the case. Lumby argues that theories that fail to address or to remain silent regarding barriers in educational leadership, have a detrimental impact on the progression of equality and inclusion (Lumby, 2013; 2016). Therefore, it has been categorized as barrier research as discussed by Johnson & Campbell Stevens, (2014). Inclusivity is an important factor and needs to be clearly defined as one of the core principals within a leadership framework.

Power and Distribution

The distribution of power is categorised under ‘Functional- Descriptive’ where it is focused on the ‘functioning processes’ of schools as discussed by Gunter (2013:6). With DL, the power remains with the Headteacher or Principal through design Spillane (2006), where leaders could decide individually or collectively on how responsibility could be distributed. Gronn (2002) citing Wenger (2000:429) suggests that a multiple leadership structure allows everyone within an organisation to contribute and progress into a leadership position, which is not always the case. In secondary schools, roles are commonly compartmentalized under the distributed leadership framework, with multiple layers of hierarchy. In many cases, power is distributed through subsumption, a hierarchy where each layer of responsibility has incremented power as discussed by Gronn (2002).

The DL theory used as a framework has major implications. The theory is still undefined therefore it is subject to the leader’s interpretation (Lumby and Coleman, 2016b; Harris, 2016). How leaders implement the DL framework relies on the functional roles stated in leadership literature, which typically focuses on how to perform its functions (Storey, 2004). This paradoxically has caused a hierarchical structure where power could be interpreted as delegation rather than distribution, contradicting the inclusive ethos associated to the framework (Lumby, 2016; Harris, 2003; Harris, 2016; Mifsud, 2015). From a leadership perspective, Coleman & Campbell-Stephens (2010) discusses the challenges of BAME leaders distributing power. Practitioners often face racism when in leadership positions, as staff have been undermined by authority based on ethnicity. This presents issues relating to inequalities and power resulting in barriers to lead (Lumby, 2013). Issues of race or any other barriers relating to BAME have not been addressed in any of the leading publications based on distributed leadership, this will need to be addressed in order to create an inclusive leadership framework.

Removing dysfunction

An increasing amount of scholars (Gronn ,2016; Woods, 2016; Diamond and Spillane 2016), have critiqued the DL framework and propose alternative frameworks for DL. This has started to address inclusion and exclusion relating to the BAME community. Woods (2016) argues that social authority is an alternative method used to increase social interactions to break down the hierarchical framework commonly used when implementing a DL framework. Social authority does not have a principal or head of the organization that holds the majority of the power. Diamond and Spillane (2016) have suggested a new theory based on their research on distributed practice by highlighting implications of leadership and BAME communities. This acknowledges the changing environment in demographics in school education. It also mentions the importance of social interaction and the need for additional research. This is a breakthrough into the emergence of a leadership network that addresses issues of equality. In order to become more inclusive to BAME groups, the literature will be more relevant if it addresses the potential limitations and invest in research to improve entry for BAME groups into leadership positions.

Dismantling the concrete Barriers

Leadership Programs

Government initiatives have been implemented to help increase the number of BAME practitioners in leadership positions (DfE, 2015a). Numbers are increasing as more BAME are joining the teaching profession. New BAME trainee teachers were 14% of the total cohort between 2015 -2016, which was an increase of 2% compared to the previous academic year (DfE, 2015b; 2016b). Despite such increase, there are still not enough teachers joining the profession and a disproportionate amount of BAME trainee teachers underachieve and drop out of Initial Teacher Training (Wilkins, 2011). This is a contributing factor to the under-representation of BAME teachers. Steel (2015) forecasts that an additional 14,429 secondary teachers will need to be appointed to represent the total BAME learners in state funded secondary schools.

According to the charities; The Future Leaders Trust, Teach First and Teaching Leaders, up to 20,000 headteachers and senior leaders are due to retire by the year 2020 (BBC, 2016). This could be significant for schools towards building a diverse workforce in leadership positions in secondary schools in order to better represent the increase of BAME students. Government supported leadership programs such as the Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund, Future Leaders and Teach First have been introduced to increase the number of practitioners including those from BAME background.

Bespoke leadership development programs have been successful in increasing BAME practitioners in leadership positions. Investing in Diversity was set up specifically for BAME, funded by the London Centre of Leadership. Research was conducted focusing on the success of the ‘Investing in Diversity Program’ where 250 BAME participants were interviewed (Johnson and Campbell-Stephens, 2013). Two thirds of the participants who applied for promotion in leadership positions were successful. Almost all participants mentioned that the program was beneficial in clarifying areas of professional development and opened more opportunities to lead. BAME leadership development schemes are successful in preparing BAME candidates and developing confidence to overcome barriers. Bespoke leadership programs have been effective, due to the personalized approach breaking the legacy of ‘colorblind’ (Mabokela and Madsen, 2003; Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2010; 2014) leadership programs that have failed to address the barriers that exclude BAME practitioners from achieving a leadership position in education. Topics such as social context, moral purpose and cultural awareness are examples of a personalized approach to help BAME practitioners to overcome barriers to promotion as discussed by Coleman (2010) and Johnson and Campbell-Stephens 2010; 2013). On the contrary this has been viewed as positive discrimination (Ogunbawo, 2012: p161) as some professionals have described BAME bespoke leadership programs as ‘patronizing’ and ‘inappropriate’. Ultimately the Investing in Diversity program has developed an innovative way of addressing areas of diversity and inclusion that would be beneficial to incorporate within major leadership development schemes.

The success of Investing in Diversity scheme emphasizes the relevance of dedicated leadership programs to increase the number of BAME in leadership positions and to help BAME practitioners overcome barriers and limitations as discussed in section 1 and 2. Substantial effort is required by mainstream government funded leadership development schemes to ensure that fairness, equality and diversity is embedded to be inclusive for all future leaders Ogunbawo (2012). This would start to increase the representation of BAME practitioners to reflect the diversity of BAME learners.

Role models

BAME leaders play an important role for BAME teachers to make a transition into leadership positions, breaking through the metaphorical concrete ceiling as discussed by Coleman (2010), Maylor (2009) and (Steel, 2015). The representation of BAME role models in leadership positions reinforces a positive mindset which will challenge cultural stereotypes and improve aspirations, encouraging BAME practitioners to aspire towards leadership positions in education.

Furthermore, there are also negative role models that plague communities that have become normalised for some youths living within inner city communities, commonly associated with a low economic status. (See Video below). This is an extreme example of negative stereotypes and role models; however, it reinforces the importance of positive role models in all levels of education.

Disclaimer: The following video has foul language viewer discretion advised

*Original video credit :Paul Mckenzie 

Interviews of BAME headteachers in studies conducted by Johnson & Campbell Stevens (2013) Bush et al (2006) and Steel (2015) has revealed informal groups and mentoring has been beneficial in the pursuit of leadership positions. Contrary, Lumby (2007:106) draws on the work of Delgado (1991) who argues that ‘role modelling is supporting assimilation to the majority’. This relates to the importance of embracing culture and identity Bush et al (2006), these are important characteristics for BAME role models to promote inclusion and diversity. Overall, BAME role models emulate a visual representation of what could be achieved, which is essential to attract quality BAME practitioners in leadership positions. It is vital for leaders to recognize the importance of a diverse leadership structure to address negative stereotypes of BAME being associated to subordinate roles within schools (Colman, 2010) and become role models for the future generation of learners and aspiring leaders from BAME backgrounds.


This report has argued the importance of inclusion throughout the recruitment process and has revealed a range of systematic barriers which have contributed to the under-representation of BAME practitioners in leadership positions. Characteristics associated to BAME practitioners add disadvantage due to additional barriers that could fuel discrimination through the recruitment process, unless unconscious biases are addressed throughout.

Structural barriers within leadership frameworks, such as DL, need to be addressed to become more inclusive to inspire the future generation of teachers from BAME backgrounds, as it provides a route into breaking cultural stereotypes as discussed by Maylor (2009) and Steel (2015).

The government has introduced schemes to improve the number of BAME which has contributed to an increase in BAME practitioners through a range of training recruitment incentives. This has contributed towards an increase of BAME numbers, however they will be coming into a system that is still restrictive with race based inequalities (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014) and structural barriers. Leaders are responsible for the education of staff when dealing with issues based on equity and equality, ensuring inclusivity is a part of a schools’ vision as discussed by Beattie (2012) and Lumby and Coleman, (2016). In order to dismantle the long line of subliminal institutionalized racism, a new outlook focusing on equality and fairness will have to be introduced on a national level on how schools are structured and managed (Johnson & Campbell Stevens, 2014).


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Rochester Grammar School Slave Auction; Racist practitioners pushing the boundaries in our schools

Rochester Grammar School in Kent- KS3 simulated slave auction exercise in History lessons.

Utter disbelief! Racism and inequality in education has always been a underlying problem,  however, its been a long time since I have witnessed an example as blatant as this.Instances like this are a  justification  for my research and dedication  towards leading  equality and diversity in education.

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I will go as far to say that the  Rochester Grammar School’s ‘Slave auction task’ are the actions of practitioners with racist ideals pushing the boundaries of education. This may be through unconscious or conscious biases that need to be addressed to ensure that racism is repudiated within education.

It is imperative that equality and diversity training should be mandatory for staff and pupils to continue to educate those who lack basic common sense. Especially in the above circumstance!! Instances like this should be brought to the forefront and not be swept under the carpet like its ‘no big issue’.

Beyond the Implicit Bias test. Strategies for deep rooted diversity and equality in Education

Image result for implicit bias test animated gif

Have you taken the implicit bias test? Follow link: 

The test highlights your personal biases relating to issues such as gender, religion, race, skin colour etc. It is a good introduction for a whole school staff training to discuss issues relating to biases relating to discrimination in education. However, schools are at risk of using the tests as ‘edu-tainment’ – a standalone strategy to justify equality training within a school to adhere to guidelines set by the government.

Image result for implicit bias test What could we start doing to ensure that equality and diversity is embedded in your schools policies and processes?

Leading Equality has designed an audit that specifically focused on issues relating to Diversity and equality within a school. The audit tool monitors areas such as;

  • Communication strategy
  • Racism policy
  • Recruitment process
  • Staff training
  • Community cohesion
  • Data of staff and student representation
  • How the school identifies opportunities to celebrate diversity
  • The schools approach to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying

The audit template will be available for download from the 28.07.17