ETHNIC minority staff have to work harder than their white peers to be promoted in Glasgow, according to the city’s only BAME depute head teacher.

Labinder Sekhon praised education bosses for recent work to try to increase the number of staff from ethnic minorities in schools and nurseries.

But she cautioned that more work must be done to ensure BAME candidates are given equal chances at work and for promotion.

The Dunard Primary School acting depute head was speaking ahead of a report to the council’s education committee this week detailing work being done in the city to improve diversity.

While nearly 25% of children and young people in Glasgow’s schools are from BAME - black, Asian and minority ethnic - backgrounds, only 3% of council staff come from those same backgrounds.

Bosses wanted to actively work to improve those figures and give children role models to help encourage them into careers in education.

As part of this work, Labinder was seconded from her role in EAL - English for speakers of other languages - to help develop ways to increase the numbers of BAME staff.

Labinder, who uses BME, rather than BAME, said: “Teaching isn’t seen as a great career choice in the BME community, there tends to be a focus on becoming doctors, dentists, lawyers, so some of the work we were doing was around challenging that.

“We worked with Skills Development Scotland: they have job profiles showing the journey of workers in the education sector and how they got where they are and we wanted to develop these for education using BME people to make them more visible so we have role models.

“These were meant to go out across Scotland but I haven’t seen any in my school yet.

“When you look at the council’s statistics, if a number of teachers is under 10 then that number isn’t listed as the people are easily identifiable.

“There are around 160 schools in Glasgow and no teachers listed as being from a BME background, not because there are none but because they are so small in number.”

Glasgow’s education sector has around 11,000 staff and, the report says, a targeted approach to improving diversity in education would improve diversity across the wider council workforce.

The report by education chief Maureen McKenna reads: “We want our children and young people to see more employees from a BAME background in our schools and nurseries acting as role models so that this may lead to them considering or choosing a career option of working in an education setting.”

Investigations found that ethnicity was not routinely recorded during recruitment. In 2017 some 59% of the council workforce had “ethnicity not declared” on their employee record.

The latest figures show that 63% of teachers and 77% of support staff now have recorded ethnicity.

Scottish Government funding was given to CEMVO (Centre for Ethnic Minorities Volunteering) during the Early Years expansion to help local authorities encourage applicants from the BAME community for Child Development Officer or Support for Learning Worker posts.

During 2018/19, Glasgow worked with CEMVO to advertise specifically to 53 people, which resulted in 24 applications and 12 successful appointments to Support for Learning Worker posts.

At the same time, Labour councillor Soryia Siddique helped the council work with Al Meezan, an Islamic Women’s Centre, to create supports for BAME women who have family commitments.

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A number of 20-hour posts were created, from 10am to 2pm, to help women with caring responsibilities into work.

More than 70 women attended a briefing session hosted by Al Meezan with HR workers attending a second session to give advice on career options and qualifications.

All applicants were given a guaranteed interview on meeting the minimum job requirements and were given interview advice.

In August, of 51 applicants, 40 started work and a further seven were waiting for a suitable post or completing recruitment checks.

Soryia said: “I was pleased that my suggestion and support to involve Al Mazeen worked out so well, and it points to the fact that we will get great results when the council embraces real partnership working with local BAME organisations.

“Research data has shown women from diverse backgrounds can sometimes be furthest away from the decision making, and experience barriers in equality of opportunity.

“Glasgow City Council must ensure its workforce at all levels, represents the diversity of the city it serves.”

The Scottish Government also funded 30 places across the country on the Early Learning and Child Care degree course with five places available in Glasgow.

Advertising for graduate trainee posts did not attract any applicants from a BAME background and so the council took a more focused approach to recruitment.

A direct invitation was issued to the heads of nurseries and Early Years employees who had declared their ethnicity as BAME to express an interest in applying for the degree course.

There were 45 employees from a BAME background who said they did not have the degree or were interested in gaining further qualifications.

Now five have been accepted for year 1 of the course and 13 have been accepted on to the degree course at Year 2.

As part of Labinder’s work, a further two recruitment sessions were set up through the Gurdwaras and around 100 people of Sikh, Hindu, Chinese, Muslim and Polish backgrounds took part.

This work was stopped when the coronavirus crisis hit but the council said it is now underway again.

A focus group of BAME teachers was also set up with feedback showing that staff and senior managers should be trained in issues such as bias and discrimination.

Labinder said a vital area to tackle is the problem of the promotion of BAME staff in education to head teacher.

While there is work being done for jobs such as support for learning assistants, she said work should be done with universities to help BAME candidates onto higher education courses and further their careers.

She said: “What we need now is to get something really firm in place as this issue tends to come on the agenda every few years but then it goes away again and improvements are not made.

“It shouldn’t take 15 years to move up the ranks and if we want to say that teaching is a great career for the BME community then there needs to be a clear route of progression.

“This is really important work and I do worry it’s going to be forgotten about.”

Labinder added: “I was seconded last year to a diversity officer role and during that time I was based in the council’s headquarters.

“One of the schools was looking for an acting depute head and I ended up getting the opportunity to take that role on - because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“I don’t think I am a success story yet because I have been teaching for 15 years before I have been noticed, basically.

“If I apply for a permanent position and am given that, that would really be a success then because we do really need to look at how we actually promote BME teachers.

“I have been teaching for 15 years but ended up in EAL because I wasn’t getting a job in mainstream.

“I am the only non-white deputy head teacher at the moment, and you do need to work harder to get noticed.

“I did a secondment to the Leaders of Learning project in 2012 and I was the only non-white member of that group of 10.

“Since then I have not seen another non-white teacher doing that job.”

The council report says more work needs to be done to improve diversity.

It adds: “We will continue to work with those in leadership positions in Education Services on race equality and we will work with staff in schools and nurseries to ensure that curriculum developments include race equality and considers how we effectively decolonise the curriculum.

“Over a longer term, we recognise that we need to do more to encourage young people from a BAME background into early years and teaching.

“Prior to lockdown, we had plans for careers events and planning had started for an event which would bring together BAME children from a wide range of schools which explored issues which impacted on them.

“We will be considering this for 2021 as part of our work on children’s rights.”

Councillor Rhiannon Spear, Convener for Education, Skills and Early Years Policy Development Committee, said:

“The work shows the positive strides in improving the diversity of the workplace in our schools and nurseries and which will better reflect Glasgow’s communities.

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“Our city celebrates the many different cultures across the city – with more than 100 languages spoken by our pupils - and it’s only right that with more than 20% of our school communities made up of children and young people from a BAME background that our school staff and teachers should be encouraged to work in our schools."