Ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce: evidence review

Caroline Sharp and Katherine Aston

31 January 2024

This review of research identifies the barriers and promising approaches to support recruitment, retention and progression of people of colour within the teaching workforce. It was commissioned by Mission 44, a charitable foundation founded by Sir Lewis Hamilton.  

Key Findings

  • People of colour are less likely to receive and accept an offer for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) compared with their white peers, but the reasons behind this disparity are not clear. Negative experiences during ITT help to explain why fewer trainee teachers of colour achieve qualified teacher status (QTS). This is an important stage for intervention.  
  • Teacher retention is lower for teachers of colour than for their white counterparts. Beyond high workload, key reasons for leaving include (1) overt and covert racial discrimination; (2) disillusionment with their ability to make a difference for pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds; and (3) lack of progression opportunities.  
  • Barriers to recruitment, retention and progression coalesce around the unequal treatment of teachers of colour in a system that was not designed to support either ethnic or intersectional diversity. An anti-racist school culture is a key enabler of progression. Therefore, action should focus on ensuring a positive working environment for teachers and leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds. 
  • In England, there are currently no government targets, programmes or funding to improve ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce, in contrast to Scotland and Wales.  
  • While there are promising approaches for improving ethnic diversity, there is a lack of rigorous evidence on their effectiveness.