2020 has been a rollercoaster year. Teachers have faced immense pressure and they have had to adapt to a new way of life in school and best adapt for their students due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have reignited conversations around Black Lives Matter, and they have even sparked further debate in the education system around decolonising the curriculum, the teaching of Black history and the lack of Black teachers. Here at Black Teachers Connect, we have ensured that our teachers have been supported.
Why did I start Black Teachers Connect?
I started Black Teachers Connect as I embarked into my training year as a teacher at the IOE. As I made my applications for ITT, I couldn’t find many Black teachers to share their experiences and to gain advice from. This surprised me but also gave me the idea to investigate further. Figures obtained from the Department for Education (DfE) show just 7.6% of teachers in state schools in England are people of colour compared with almost 25% of pupils. If we proceed to breakdown figures even further Black teachers, specifically those from an African or Caribbean background make up around 2.5% of the teacher workforce here in the UK. This has increased by around 0.5% since I began Black Teachers Connect. The statistics are shocking, but they also relate to why people may have had such few Black teachers growing up; I only had two.
As a result of this I started to think about how great it would be to have a safe space for Black teachers and those who work in education to come together, to speak, to vent, to share resources and genuinely just have fun. So, I decided to create Black Teachers Connect. Black Teachers Connect is a community for Black teachers and those that work in education. Although based in the UK, our community of teachers spans worldwide. We focus on giving Black educators the opportunity to connect, learn and inspire one another.
Since starting out we have had the opportunities to work with BBC and Huffington Post, raising the awareness of the lack of Black educators and the impact that this can have on students.
We have worked with trainee teachers and NQT’s through hosting our popular NQT webinar and we have had the pleasure of hosting a SEN workshop to help teachers with tailoring to the different needs of students in their classrooms. We hosted a popular series over on IGTV called the Leadership Series which gave an insight into the experiences of Black Senior Leaders and Headteachers. We also continue to release our monthly newsletter. We continue to support teachers behind the scenes with issues and problems they may be facing in their schools.
Why is Black Teachers Connect important?
As we have moved forward in building our community, we have faced backlash. Some have argued why are we advocating for only Black teachers and some have argued that it doesn’t matter who is teaching a child as long as they are passionate.
Black teachers are so important to the education system today. For students of colour in classrooms today, they need to see someone like themselves as their teacher. Black teachers can often build relationships with students who often feel disconnected from their school or college. They set high expectations for ALL students. Diversity and Excellence is not something that we can stray away from. Whilst reading this, I want you to think: have you had a Black teacher in the past? What was that experience like for you? Do you remember their name? Do you remember how they made you feel? For Black students having representation is important, it can be encouraging and motivate them to know that can achieve too.
The epidemic of knife crime and violent crime in the UK and the prison population of young ethnic minorities all signal and point to the education system. School is supposed to be a mini society for young people, a place where they are prepped for the wider world, however if they are excluded from this, what message does that send to them on what they can achieve in the future? Black pupils are still significantly overrepresented in PRUs ( pupil referral units) and as of recent the IRR (Institute of Race Relations) have recently warned that Black working class pupils are unfairly excluded in England.
Having more Black teachers and senior leaders is one way to begin to solve these issues. Here at Black Teachers Connect we will continue the work we do to ensure this is the case.
Mission Statement: Black Teachers Connect seeks to build a community for Black teachers. We strive to do this through supporting and promoting the recruitment and retention of Black teachers in the UK and worldwide.