Our Classrooms Must Reflect Our Diverse Society; Recent Census Figures Highlighted How Ethnically Diverse Our Society Has Become. Here Angela Jardine, Chairwoman of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), Calls for the Same Multi-Ethnic Mix in the Teaching Profession

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THE release of the latest national population statistics reminded us that we live in an increasingly diverse society; particularly those of us in the cities and larger towns.

Unlike our parents and grandparents, who lived mainly within homogenous communities, adults and children today expect to regularly have contact with people from many different ethnic origins.

The changing profile of the population is already reflected in the racial mix of many occupations; for example the medical profession, the financial world and the police. Strangely though, this trend hasn't yet reached the staffrooms of schools in Wales.

The most up-to-date figures from the GTCW register show that, from a total of 38,000 or so registered teachers in Wales, only 126 were from Asian backgrounds and only 46 were black.

Overall, less than half of 1% of registered teachers in Wales are from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, black African or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.

By contrast the census shows that around 3% of the Welsh population as a whole are from these origins.

That points to a significant under-representation of these groups in the current teaching workforce. More worryingly, GTCW figures on new entrants to the profession show that the gap is not narrowing.

All of this is ironic, given that the schools themselves have embraced cultural diversity with enthusiasm. I know from my own work in a Cardiff inner city primary school with an ethnically diverse pupil population that we celebrate this diversity through our lessons and activities so that the children can develop a healthy and well-informed view of the world. So why does it matter that people from ethnic minorities in Wales don't enter teaching in any significant numbers, and what can we do about it? Arguably it matters more in teaching than in any other profession, given that we are the ones who, along with parents, provide the lead and role model for the next generation.

It's important from the perspective of all pupils that the adults standing in front of them in the classroom reflect the society in which they are growing up. Statistics suggest that the vast majority of Welsh pupils attend schools where there are no black or Asian teachers at all. That includes my own school.

During these formative years children of all races and backgrounds should be forging positive relationships with, and developing positive attitudes towards, adults from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Not only does that prepare them for the society in which they will be future citizens but it can also bring valuable additional dimensions to their educational experience and ultimately contribute to better community cohesion.

I believe it also gives indigenous Welsh children a deeper appreciation of their own culture.

Also, given that children can admire and often seek to emulate their teachers, it's important that youngsters from minority ethnic backgrounds encounter teachers who come from the same background as themselves. …