Racism in English schools 'is out there' says one teacher

Nikki Cunningham-Smith

A teacher has told Newsbeat that she hasn't found the job easy and was told by one parent that she only got her role because of the colour of her skin.

Nikki Cunningham-Smith, from Herefordshire, says she heard racist language at one of the schools she used to work at.

She says the "n-word" was used by the parent of a pupil she used to teach.

"[They] felt that the use of that word wasn't as highly offensive as it was," she told Newsbeat.

"Although it wasn't directed at me, it still wasn't appropriate. When they realised, they very quickly backtracked and said they weren't racist. But it's out there."

Teacher in a classroom

Nikki has revealed some of the issues she's faced in the job as one union is warning there's a shortage of black and minority ethnic teachers in English schools.

The NASUWT says an extra 68,000 teachers from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds need to be recruited to reflect the number of pupils in English schools.

Around 13% of state school teachers are from a BME background compared to 27% of pupils.

School pupils

Nikki has told Newsbeat that there need to be more black and minority ethnic teachers for kids to relate to.

"When I grew up I never saw any BME teachers from primary through to secondary," she says.

"Even in my schools now when I go to meetings, [I notice] in rural areas there's not that spread of ethnic minorities to give those pupils role models."

School pupils

Nikki's mum is British but her dad is Jamaican and she thinks the colour of her skin has sometimes made the job feel tough.

"When working in Nottingham, a parent told me the only reason I'd got the job was because the school had been struggling to deal with their child, so the school brought in a black person to deal with him.

"I said to them that they were setting the system back. I got the job because I have a degree and was the best person for the role out of six candidates. It was really difficult."

The 30-year-old now teaches secondary school pupils in Herefordshire.

Nikki's taught in five schools so far and says she wants to see more newly-qualified teachers go out in to universities and colleges, to chat with people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds about going in to teaching.

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