“I’ve got this”, I heard God say to me (about a new phone deal)

One morning in August 2022 I was at my desk doing something or other. The phone rang. Sometimes I ignore such calls from unknown numbers. But this time I decided to answer. I was polite as usual. I was being offered a mobile phone contract. I explained I was currently paying about £10 for a pay-as-you-go per month contract, having come to the end of my previous contract. Of course, I could have continued with the current arrangement. It was a case of ‘it’s not broken’ so I didn’t need to fix it. But clearly I wasn’t thinking.

After a minute or so of the initial sale conversation, I was passed to a colleague who then began to talk me through the phone contract. He went into some detail. After a few minutes I began to get impatient. I just wanted to get back to whatever I had been doing before the call. It was also time to go for my coffee break. During this period of impatience, I probably stopped listening to what I was being told. I do remember agreeing to pay just over £10 per month for a three-year contract. I quickly signed a contract and went for my coffee break.

About a month later, out of the blue, I received £70 into our bank account. I did not understand where this had come from or why. In investigating this I was told by the phone company, OneCom, that this amount was a refund towards my monthly bill, which would be about £80. When I expressed confusion about this it was explained that there was ‘discount’ ‘investment’ of £70 which I would receive for the first 17 months. This raised a question in my mind: what about after 17 months? (as this was a 36 month contract). When I queried the whole arrangement with an agent of the company they extended the ‘discount’ to 24 months.

I explained the full episode to my wife and business partner. I was expecting her to say how stupid I had been or worse. But all she managed was to say words to the effect of “ah well, no one has died”.  Very true.  

I began to think: what about the last 12 months? A couple of months later it was explained in an email that after 24 months I will have the option of entering a further 36 months contract, with a new discount I presume. However, if I did not wish to enter into a new contract then my discount would end, leaving me to pay an additional £70 per month for the remaining 12 months. In an email, a representative of OneCom stated that “I fully appreciate our discount is not the norm”. This made me think: if it is not normal then surely they should have explained the whole think in a more explicit way instead of not even mentioning the word ‘discount’ before I signed the contract, especially as it was going to lead me to pay the additional £70 per month for 12 months. Had they explained the discount arrangement I would not have signed the contract.

So, how am I feeling about all this? Frustrated, angry, stupid, bit of an idiot…. The word depression may be too strong but I was definitely low. I so wanted to turn the clock back so I could undo the whole business. I did not need a new contract. I was fine as I was. But, as they say, ‘it was water under the bridge’. I had signed on the dotted line. I was stuck. For a £10 a month contract I was either stuck with the company for life (by signing a new contract every 24 months) or having to pay an extra £70 per month for the final 12 months; a total of £840.

I live in the present normally. But this was ruining that by taking me into the future. I kept thinking about what would happen after 18 months or 24 months. Do I want to wait till then or do I terminate the contract now? Of course if I took the latter option I would have to pay them even more money, for early cancellation.

Throughout these three or four months I constantly emailed the company. Back and forth. Always polite exchanges, with their customer services people and the secretary of the CEO, who I had tracked down and linked up on LinkedIn. 

How I felt was made worse by me reading horror stories on the internet from other customers with OneCom. So, now I am thinking (isn’t hindsight wonderful): why didn’t I look up the company before I signed the contract!

The frustration and the feeling low (pretty low, for a person who is normally glass half-full) continued. It was all-consuming. I would think about it all my waking hours, especially those moments in the middle of the night when I was trying to go back to sleep.

Of course, as a man of faith I was praying all the time, for God to intervene, to do something, do anything to help. Was he listening to what I was saying?  Along the way I was able to describe the whole episode to the two guys from our church with whom I meet every fortnight to share what is going on in our lives and pray for each other. I remember saying how stupid I felt. To this I was told by one of the men: don’t say that; you are not stupid.  

Then, one day I heard God speak to me; very clearly, as clear as I am about sitting here now writing this blog…. I had just finished my hospital chaplaincy ward round and was sitting there in the waiting room so I could have my Covid jab. At the time, like most days I was having another very LOW moment. Just then I audibly heard a voice which I took to be from God, saying: I’ve got this. So, now God was saying he had heard me, he knew what was going on and he will sort it. Did that help? A little. But I still wanted to go back in time to not make (the stupid) mistake.

I considered writing to the BBC Watchdog. I contacted Citizens Advice. I considered writing the full story and name and shame the company…. I tried my best to persuade OneCom, their CEO, his secretary, their customers service….. I considered writing to my Member of Parliament.

I then decided to complain to OfCom. But it turned out that OneCom were not within their jurisdiction but had their own Complaints System. This did not give me much hope. I didn’t think this would be a system that would give me a fair hearing. Still I tried them. I wrote the full story. They considered whether I had a case for them to take on. They did think I had a case and that they would take it up on my behalf.

My main case was that because the ‘discount’ and its likely end at 24 months had not been made clear to me when I first signed the contract, I wished to terminate the contract, without having to pay any termination charges. Alternatively, I was happy to continue with the contract if the £70 discount was extended to the full 36 months of the full duration of the contract. I also explained to the Adjudicator that I had signed the contract in good faith, based on the phone sales conversation, but without reading the small print of the contract which did explain the ‘discount’. In summary, I was of the view that it was a 36 month contract and I would pay just over £10 per month. Simple.

I waited for the decision by the Adjudicator. They took a few weeks before reaching their decision. I expected bad news. So, I began to prepare for it. Occasionally I would remind myself of what God had promised. It helped a little, to get me through my days.

The Adjudicator decided in my favour. They instructed the company to terminate my contract, after making sure that, over the 8 months duration of the contract I only pay £10.70 per month. I was owed over a £100 which I was pleased to have refunded.

There was a bonus! The month following the resolution of my case, I received my normal £70 discount. I wrote to the company to inform them of this, expecting they would expect a refund. They didn’t. Instead they wrote to me to say I could keep the money. But then the same happened the month after. Again I wrote to them to inform them of this discount money. I did not hear from them. So, I ended up benefiting from £140. By this time I had a new phone contract with a different company which was below £10 a month. Moreover, my OneCom contract had come free membership of Amazon Prime. I have tried to cancel this but have not been able to. So, I continue to have this free membership and probably will have it for 36 months.

In conclusion…

The episode has renewed my faith in our systems, such as, adjudication.

I have learnt that next time someone phones me to sell me something I shall be less trusting and less quick to enter into a contract.

And, maybe, next time God says, “I’ve got this”, I will be more trusting.  

Birmingham Pakistani exclusion from (health) structures


In 2013 I published the book Dear Birmingham which drew attention to the exclusion of Pakistanis from opportunities and centres of power across Birmingham. Since then, further research has been conducted which has shown continued exclusion of the community. The focus here is on Birmingham City Council and the health services in the city.


According to the Census 2021, 17% of the Birmingham’s population are Pakistani. Two-thirds pf this community are from Azad Kashmir, the remainder are Pashtun, Punjabis and other ‘Pakistanis’.

Drawing on Birmingham City Council 2011 data, 24% of the school children were Pakistani. This percentage will have increased since then. According to local health data, Pakistanis had the largest number of pregnancies which provides a clear indicator of population. 

Birmingham Pregnancies

  • Pakistani                      517
  • British (White?)         515
  • Black African              91
  • White other                91
  • Asian other                  77
  • Indian                          73
  • Bangladeshi               69
  • Middle Eastern          37

Pakistani health

British Pakistanis are generally a disadvantaged community.

According to the Birmingham Pakistani Health Profile,

  • life expectancy of Pakistani women 84.8
  • life expectancy of Pakistani men is 82.3
  • Pakistanis consistently had the highest rate of infant mortality of all Asian subcategories.
  • Pakistani women are the least active of all ethnicities, men not much better.
  • Pakistani men, almost three times as likely as the general population to have type 2 diabetes
  • Pakistani women five times more likely to be diabetic when compared with the women in the general population
  • Pakistani children, ages 10-11, have higher prevalence of obesity; also children 4-5 years of age with the same problem
  • 49.9% of Pakistani mothers were in consanguineous relationships.

Birmingham City Council Employment

According to the Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission Report (2001) the Council had previously set and achieved a 20% target for employing ethnic minorities. The Council then decided to set differentiated targets, in proportion to the population. For their Pakistani workforce the Annual Improvement Target (2001/2002) was 6.9%. I have monitored the progress of this target over the years through Freedom of Information, as follows:

Birmingham City Council Pakistani workforce over the years

2000                2%

2012                3.85%

2018                4.8%

2020                5.19%

2023                6.99% (the 2001/2002 target). This is against the Pakistani presence in the population of 17%.

Pakistanis in the health system

Through Freedom of Information, I have collected the following picture of Pakistanis as registered patients, in the health workforce and on health boards.

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

  • Pakistani patients                    20.71%
  • Pakistanis on boards               5.43%

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

  • Pakistani patients                    14.22%
  • Pakistanis in the workforce  6.41%
  • Pakistanis on the board          8%
  • Positive Action

The Trust has no strategy targeted at any singular ethnicity in its workforce, including the Board. But the Trust is committed to a representative workforce with inclusive leadership. To support this, we have various work streams to increase the representation of BME staff at Band 8a above. This includes Band 8a assurance framework, positive action for underrepresented groups, and equality statement on Trust job adverts. In addition, the Possibilities Beyond Limits programme is in place to support BME colleagues to progress. This work is focused on BME staff and not one sole ethnic group. We provide inclusive leadership training to all senior managers on Band 6 and above, in addition to cultural competence training.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

Pakistanis in the workforce                5.2% 

Pakistanis on the board                        7% 

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

Pakistani patients                    7.6%

Pakistanis in the workforce    5.49%

Pakistanis on the board                       There are NIL Pakistani board members.

Please note that there are 2 board members without an ethnic origin recorded on the Trust ESR system (workforce system) and therefore we are unable to confirm if they of Pakistani ethnic origin.

NHS Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board.

  • Pakistanis in the workforce                6.3%
  • Pakistanis on the board                      0%
  • Positive Action is covered in our Equality Strategy (slide 26), and EDI Policy.

The ICB do not specifically target action at individual ethnic origin categories, such as Asian Pakistani but take a wider view where there is under-representation of minority ethnic groups at a particular pay band.

The ICB is working towards the NHS requirements, set out in the Workforce Race Equality Standard Model Employer paper, published in January 2019, this sets out an ambition to increase black and minority ethnic representation at all levels of workforce by 2028.

Our positive action work covers all levels of the organisation.

Suggested recommendations

Suggested recommendations

  1. 17% target Pakistanis in the workforce – pipeline strategy
  2. 17% target Pakistanis on the Boards and all decision-making structures
  3. Decision making structures to include multilingual strategies such as interpreters (in Mirpuri/Pahari, Pashto), especially for women.
  4. A Pakistani health practitioners’ group (sub-groups such as Kashmiri, Pashtun) to feed intelligence and expertise into the system.
  5. Pakistani sub-groups on health (e.g. Kashmiri, Pashtun) in order to understand the needs and provide a culturally competent health service.
  6. A BLACHIR type approach to Pakistani community, in partnership with authorities such as Bradford whose ‘Born in Bradford’ study offers a model for work on consanguinity which was flagged up as a Birmingham problem.
  7. A health profile to be produced for the largest of the Pakistani communities, the Kashmiri community.

Birmingham City Council should take urgent action to rectify the unacceptable imbalance between the Pakistani population and Pakistani origin employees in the Council.

Professor Muhammad Anwar, Birmingham Pakistan Forum report 20-21 April 1996.

Beyond representation

In the 1990s I was an established equality practitioner and the term diversity had just been coined. My livelihood depended on my work; family to feed, mortgage and bills to pay and the like. As a paid-up member of the Labour Party, there was a time when I wondered if the Tory Party came calling for advice whether I would sell my expertise to them. This was when they had selected a Black candidate for the blue seat of Cheltenham.

Taylor was the son of Jamaican Christian immigrants, settled in Birmingham. His father was a professional cricketer and coach for Warwickshire and his mother was a nurse. Taylor attended Moseley Grammar School where he was head boy and later attended Keele University where he studied English Literature and law, followed by Inns of Court School of Law in London. So, the right material for a future Tory Member of Parliament! This was not to be. The safe seat was lost to the Liberal Democrats, for the simple reason the electorate could not stomach a Black candidate.

I remember thinking at the time that if the Tories sorted their racism they would do well given the many potential candidates like Taylor amongst the ethnic minorities. That was then. The Tories did manage to get there, without my advice. In fact, alongside the women-only shortlists which brought many women into Parliament for the Labour Party benches, the conscious way the Tories set out to bring in ethnic minorities to arrive at their current position offers an example of good equalities recruitment practice. So, you would think that those of us who campaign for ethnic minority representation would be pleased. Whether we are or not depends on our politics. What the exercise has told us is that representation is not the only thing matters. We are (and should be) also concerned with what the representatives do once they get there. We are even learning that some ethnic minority Tories are even worse than White because of their use of their own ethnicity as a weapon to bring in even nastier policies.

The problem is not just in Parliament. After years of campaigning when I recently reported that a particular education board in Birmingham was no longer 100 percent White because of its three ethnic minority candidates someone raised the point: let’s hope they are the right ethnic minorities.

Well before the highly ethnically diverse Tory leadership list, the education campaigner Rosemary Campbell-Stephens advised us to go ‘beyond representation’ (in the Colin Diamond Birmingham Book 2022). In her view representation alone was not enough. We should also ask: leadership for what purpose and in whose interest?

  • Does having a more diverse leadership in itself change anything?
  • What difference does it make if the training and the professional socialisation that Black and other Global Majority educators receive, the institutional culture of which they become a part and the systems and processes they operate are identical to their white counterparts?

Representation matters but is never sufficient on its own. We have to look beyond to assess the behaviour of the representatives and the positive difference they make to addressing inequalities. To quote Lord Simon Wolley, we need “principled, all community serving politicians who won’t pander to prejudice to elevate themselves” ; “ethical leadership, not just ethnicity”.

Positive Action across the City is a must

  • Extracts from the book Dear Birmingham (2013) by Dr Karamat Iqbal

“In 1986, Birmingham City Council, a major West Midlands employer, with 50,000 full and part-time workers, decided as part of its positive action programme, that its aim would be to recruit 20% of new staff from ethnic minority communities” (Employment Report, Commission for Racial Equality, 1987). In launching the programme Councillor Bill Gray said:

“What we are saying is that from now on, regardless of other considerations, 20 per cent of recruiting must come from ethnic minorities. We are going to monitor recruitment and managers will have to explain if they have not recruited 20 per cent. It is no good just talking of being committed to an equal opportunities process- we have to demonstrate that we mean what we say.”  Bill Gray 

Then, in 2001, the Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission Report said:

“The institutions should take steps to ensure that they address the current under-representation of minority ethnic people in their employment. All institutions should establish workforce targets based on the current minority ethnic population of the city…You can performance manage so many things, why can’t you performance manage race?” Lawrence Commission

“If public services are to be effective in responding to more diverse needs, then a pre-requisite is to ensure that their workforce profiles are truly reflective of (the) diversity.” Lawrence Commission

Others have agreed with the approach:

“Reflective workforces are seen as effective workforces and if you are going to provide culturally competent and sensitive services then you need staff who can connect with the communities that they serve”– BRAP

John Solomos and Les Back, in their book about the City (Race, Politics and Social Change, 1995), pointed out that Birmingham has been very successful with regard to writing policies and presenting an image of itself as an authority that is in the forefront of developing race equality policies. However, it has not been as good at making sure that race equality initiatives are embraced at all levels within the organisation. The authors quote a Black officer saying: “We have created a façade that race relations have been strengthened. We go all around Europe, host conferences blowing Birmingham’s trumpet but the reality of the situation is very different…” (p191).

But, it would appear that it is not all window-dressing. There is much good practice from the past that we can learn from. I thought this Birmingham political leader, quoted in Solomos and Back, summed up my thinking on positive action:

“..If you have a history of under-representation you’ve got to do something at some point to catch up, but I am against the dropping of standards. I think what you’ve got to do is remove any other and illegitimate obstacles, personal racism of a superior within a department or something of that sort, overt discrimination. Remove that so that people can compete fairly. What I wouldn’t do is remove competition.” 

“It is very well making policy pronouncements, but you have to take it much further than this. It is just not enough to have fine pieces of paper… In employment, for example, you need to take a whole view…. If you recruit ten black people and ten years later they are in the same position, that’s not equality” Black Officer

As a policy response, we could do worse than refer to the 1984 manifesto commitment of Birmingham Labour Party. As pointed out in Solomos and Back, it committed the incoming administration to seek to achieve “proportionate employment of ethnic minorities.. at all levels.” It committed the Council to take Positive Action to ensure that there is equality of opportunity for ethnic minorities in all its initiatives. As a result, the City Council successfully pursued a target of twenty per cent ethnic minority employees, under the leadership of Bill Gray who is quoted above.

 Following this, there was writing of equal opportunities criteria into the performance contracts of senior managers. The Chief Officers of service departments made regular reports to the Personnel and Equal opportunities Committee (though this resulted in some “embarrassed and heated exchanges with members, it worked”). The “situation had been transformed radically.” By 1993, the ethnic minority presence in the City’s workforce had reached 15.4%, with a “number of departments approaching the target 20 per cent minority employment and some have completely transformed their ethnic composition.”     

City-wide programme

The earlier rules about Positive Action – in place since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 – have now been changed. In the past, it was limited to training or encouragement such as mentoring schemes for ethnic minority or women staff where they were under-represented at certain levels within an organisation or needed additional training provision.

Under the recent Equality Act 2010, it is now legal to recruit or promote a candidate (say a Pakistani) who is of equal merit to another candidate. However, before this can be done the employer has to reasonably think that Pakistanis are under-represented in the workforce and they suffer from a disadvantage due to being a Pakistani. For example, a service for teenagers has no employees who are Pakistani, despite being located in an area of high Pakistani population. When a vacancy arises, there are two candidates who are equally qualified for the job and the employer has to find a way to choose one of them. One candidate is Pakistani and the other candidate is not. Under the current law, it would be legal to offer the job to the Pakistani and the other candidate would not be able to make a claim of unlawful racial discrimination.

In my view, the new Positive Action rules offer us as a city a way forward. However, I would not suggest that a few organisations take such an approach in isolation from each other. Thinking of our city as one big business, Birmingham Plc, which is faced with across-the-board under-representation of ethnic minorities (more of some than others) I would like to propose a wholesale programme of Positive Action, properly resourced and co-ordinated and with one clear focus: to improve the situation in employment and service provision.

My mother tongue and other languages II

It was in 1983 that we went to Paris, for our honeymoon. It was 13 years since I had arrived in England from Kashmir, speaking only a little English, now nearly a graduate with a Bachelor of Education. 

Unlike me, the woman I had married had gone to a grammar school and had learnt some French. So, other than saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ during our time there I was able to hide behind her whenever it came time to communicate with the locals. 

During that visit we both fell in love with France and would return there for holidays every few years. Each time we went I felt embarrassed, almost ashamed, for my inability to speak French. 

Then about 20 years ago I took the radical step to eventually start to learn the language, with the help of a teacher friend. Every week I would have a half hour  lesson with him. Then, in between the lessons, I would get on with my normal life, in its English-speaking environment and forget any French words and phrases I had learnt. 

Then it suddenly dawned on me; here I was learning a new language and failing while at the same time I continued to forget the language(s) I did know once ie Urdu and Pahari. 

I then remembered the advice of a teacher when I first arrived in England. She had said: if you want to improve your English then read, read, read as much as you can. I thought to myself: if that works for English then it must work for any language. 

I decided to subscribe to the Urdu weekly paper, The Nation. In the 7 days before the next one arrived I used to read all of it – news of the politics in Pakistan and Kashmir, social matters in the UK, adverts including for marriage and anything and everything else that was there. In the early days I struggled but then I began to notice the improvement. Interestingly as I read Urdu it began to improve my spoken Pahari. 

After cancelling my newspaper subscription, I have continued to read regularly, a forever increasing list of well-written Urdu books and articles that have content that is of interest. Whereas before I would read and re-read old favourites; Kashmir udaas hai by Mahmood Hashmi, Shahaab Nama, book on the achievements of Muhammad Ajeeb by Yaqub Nizami and numerous Manto books. 

Then, thanks to a Facebook friend, I recently discovered a book by Syed Shabbir Ahmad: Observations and Impressions. What an excellent story teller; with a Manto-esque style of writing as well his selection of material. The detail he provides and the emotions he captures leaves one with the stories and their characters for days to come as if one had personally been there. 

My reading journey of his work began with Radio Bachpan. Here we learn about the arrival of the radio, in 1965, from his Vilayati (Blighty, England return) uncle. 

I remember the family would gather at teatime and listen to the covered in cloth radio given pride of place on the table. We children used to wonder how it was that a human being had gotten inside the machine to then talk and sing to us. 

We would go to school and brag about our prized possession. Upon return from school I would run straight to my uncles to enjoy this innovative piece of equipment. A few years later when my father bought our own radio I remember family members cautioned him that it might interfere with our education. 

It was very helpful to see included in the book a chapter on Mahmood Hashmi; a timely opportunity to have confirmed my existing knowledge (as well acquire some new detail) on him before I write a chapter on this man known as the Father of Urdu journalism in the UK. 

In the story where he promises his mother not to cry, my particular interest focused on sections that provide an insight into the daily routine of women and families. Recently I happened to have read Gupta’s ‘Embers the Beginning and Embers the End of Mirpur’ which described the horrors of Partition. So I welcomed the feel-good story of Muslims coming to the aid of Hindus. 

The writer also draws on his work as a taxi driver in a number of places. A few years ago I wanted to set up a project to gather Taxi Tales. It never came to fruition. I would encourage him to maybe write that book in order to share with us the world and insights of people in this trade which has working within it as many as 25 percent British Pakistani workers. 

There is ‘People who love are in the West too’. As someone who has only lived in the West, I can only agree. 

Although I have had knowledge of the British education for over 50 years (as a pupil, teacher, teacher trainer, schools adviser, parent, governor) it was nevertheless enjoyable reading this ‘outsider’ perspective in the chapter devoted to our education system. 

Last but not least, is the chapter: A girl is born. This took me back to my early days in Kashmir and then in England. Being the only son in a family of 6 and later an uncle to 4 girls, I learnt the appalling treatment of girls in our families. I am always keen to promote gender equality whenever I get a chance. We see the writer also challenging the ways of our community. He has written a couple of stories about daughters. In one he gives out mathaaee sweets. A colleague enquires what the occasion is to which he responds: birth of a daughter. The enquiry continues: the first? “No, the second” he says, leaving his colleague confused as such practice usually only happens at the birth of a son. Later, in the same story, when he said goodbye to his daughter at the hostel so she could attend medical college, it brought back tearful moments when we left our first-born at her university. In another story we learn about another’s daughter being allowed to marry the man of her choice. I could only wish her well and say to her parents: good on you to allow her to do so. 

I strongly urge you to read this gem of a book. 


I am sad I never mastered French. Occasionally we have talked about going to France on an extended holiday and immersing ourselves in their language. Dreams do become reality. One day!

From CSEs to a PhD – a thank-you note to the Lifelong Learning Community

I was born in Kashmir, in the 1950s. There were very few education opportunities there. There was one primary school, serving a population of a few thousand children. It was about a half hour walk away. It had one teacher. There were two items of furniture: the teacher’s chair and a blackboard. We sat on the dusty floor, writing on wooden boards known as takhtis. Each class had a Monitor, to act as a Teacher’s Assistant. I was one such pupil, almost from day one. I loved learning and often came top in the exams.

After five years there I moved to the secondary school, over an hour’s walk away. This had a few more teachers and a wider curriculum. This included languages other than Urdu. For the first time I encountered Arabic, Farsi and English. After two years here my parents decided to send me to England, to live with my older sister and her husband. They had concluded that I would have more opportunities in my new home. How right they were. All my achievements (there are numerous) over the 50 years that have followed came about because of that decision and their sacrifice, to part with their 12-year-old son.

In England, I attended a local Secondary Modern. This served a mainly white working-class community which was in the early stages of becoming multicultural. Many of the local children had jobs lined up where their dads and mums worked so they thought they did not need qualifications. This was true in those days, but not for long. The Kashmiri and other minority children had a similar attitude to qualifications. I was an exception.

After three years at the school, at 16, with a couple of good CSEs, I left to get a job and stand on my own two feet. I was glad the school leaving age had been raised. The extra year made all the difference for me. That was in 1974.

Three years ago (2017), I completed my PhD, from Warwick University. Through this I have earned the right to use the title ‘Dr’. As well as publishing my thesis in book form I have begun to encourage others to take similar qualifications. The following is an example of this; a comment from a Pakistani contact who I am mentoring as he moves nearer to doing his own PhD:

I am deeply inspired by you. In your work you have focused on issues that are important to me. Our last conversation, about me doing a PhD, was an illustration of you giving your time to up and coming people. I admire who you are and your writing. Seeing someone like you, with the experiences you’ve had and your writing . . . inspires me. I can see myself as someone who can do the same because you’ve done it. Thank you so much.

So, what is the story in between these stages of my life?

With the help of the school’s careers officer I managed to get a job as an Admin. Trainee at a local factory. What sold this job to me was the promise of a day-release, to continue my education. This was the start of my relationship with the world of further education. Between this and my second employer, where I worked as a Youth Work Trainee, amounted to six years of post-16 study. I now had the required O and A-levels to gain entry to higher education, for my first degree. I would not have reached this point without the transformative power of FE, for which I shall be eternally grateful. Here, it is worth mentioning the mature student’s grant I was able to access. Without this, there would have been no higher education.

The next phase of my life, relevant here, was my thirteen years as a middle manager at a post-16 community college. Alongside my role as a DeputyDirector of Equal Rights and Opportunities Management Unit, I was attracted to working in the department that provided qualifications for mature students who had left school with few or no qualifications. Utilising my own experience, I designed an Access to HE course in Youth Studies. The students were from disadvantaged backgrounds; ethnic minorities, white, single parents, those who disliked school or who the school disliked. But now all of them had a deep desire for learning and self-improvement. What they needed was another chance. FE, particularly this college, whose aim was to serve the needs of deprived communities, came to their rescue. Naturally, I saw myself in my students’ life trajectories.

Then the college merged with another and the new institution had no place for me. So I took voluntary redundancy. I soon discovered that this was nothing new in our world, even though it seemed tragic personally. So, the key question I asked myself was: what was I capable of doing? It seemed quite a lot by this time, thanks to my experience and education, which by this time included a master’s degree. Instead of becoming unemployed, I became self-employed. I set up a consultancy, with its own website, and began to get work, some fairly prestigious.

Soon after, I undertook a project, to research and champion the educational needs of white disadvantaged young people. With the help of the local MP, the findings were taken to Parliament. At such moments I invariably and proudly remembered my young self who had left school with hardly any qualifications. It was also a reminder of what difference (second chance) education can make. Later, I was to make a case for a joined-up approach to the education of the young people who underachieved at school and who needed a ‘cradle to grave’ educational strategy.:

We need to enable our early years practitioners, school staff, colleges, universities and a range of other community organisations and individuals to work together for a single goal in addressing their needs. Their work will not happen without the systemic change, and the associated resourcing.

Following the above research, I did my PhD, where my focus has been the educational underachievement of British Pakistani boys, in Birmingham (2018). This has shown that over 1,000 young people from this community leave school each year without the benchmark qualifications.

Possible response

So, reflecting on my own life’s personal and professional journey, what should our further education provision look like? In short, this should be lifelong, cradle to grave. All stages and types of education – early years, schools, adult education, universities, formal and informal – should be joined-up and be accountable to their communities, whose needs the provision should be focused on. There should always be Positive Action, that is, greatest investment for those with the greatest need. Everyone should have a learning account, with a deposit of money from the government, to be used whenever, bearing in mind not everyone is able to gain access to university nor is such provision suitable for or wanted by all. There should be a duty placed on employers to provide ongoing learning opportunities for their employees.

I have experienced two redundancies. On both occasions I was able to pick myself up and not just survive but thrive. The end of job-for-life is even more a likely reality for the future generations. Melissa Benn (2018) reminds us: ‘In order to get ahead or even just to survive, tomorrow’s workers will have to be entrepreneurial, good communicators, globally aware, thrive in solo work . . . and skilled in teams’. She also quoted Theresa May, promising when she took office in July 2016 in these words: ‘We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.’ If such promises were made good, in relation to lifelong learning, the future of our nation could indeed be bright.

This blog was first published in Post-16 Educator


Benn, M. (2018) Life Lessons – the Case for a National Education Service. London: Verso.

Iqbal, K. (2018) British Pakistani Boys, Education and the Role of Religion – in the Land of the Trojan Horse. London: Routledge.

Not easy being a woman in Pakistan

By Tanveer Zaman Khan (translated from Urdu by Dr Karamat Iqbal)

In the Pakistani society women are treated as a symptom of all that is bad. Even worse, men are seen as inherently good and whose corruption is blamed on women. Women are the temptress who use their obscene bodies to lead the innocent man astray. In fairy tales and myths and legends women are presented as witches and ghosts; to be avoided. This creates a most horrendous picture and perception of women in the nation’s mindset.

All this in a society where men control absolutely everything. Within the home fathers, brothers and husbands, in their own way and with their supposedly God-given powers do as they wish; to control women, to abuse them and destroy their lives through such evil cultural practices as :

  • Wani – a custom found in parts of Pakistan where girls, often minors, are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes. Vani is a form of arranged or forced child marriage, and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders.
  • Karo kari – a practice of honour killing. The country has the highest number of documented and estimated honour killings per capita of any country in the world. such a killing is murder of a member of a family by other members, due to the belief the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community. The death of the victim is viewed as a way to restore the reputation and honour of the family.

When the woman leaves the home she knows she is entering space that does not belong to her. Men will treat her as if she is a wild animal who has escaped the jungle. She will be raped by their looks alone, creating absolute terror for her. If a man takes a fancy to her and she rejects his advances then he may resort to throwing acid on her; a case of ‘if I cannot have you no one can’. If a woman ever looks likely to gain the upper hand in a dispute with a man then he has the whole social, legal, political and religious system on his side, to ensure that his masculinity is not marred even the slightest.

If the rest of the system is not enough then the Urdu language will step in with its rich vocabulary that can be used by men and the general society to put the woman in her lowest possible place. Labels such as: insolent, audacious, shameless, impudent, impertinent, wicked, freedom-loving, pleasure-seeker, vagabond and, if all else fails to categorise and castigate women then there is always ‘westernised’, a catch-all label that defines everything that is undesirable and objectionable.

When women demonstrate against their oppression, such as through the Aurat March (Women’s March) they are subjected to propaganda from the media and especially from the government and religious lobby:

  • They are Western agents, being funded by the West
  • They want too much freedom
  • They are all lesbians
  • They dress inappropriately and unacceptably
  • The educated (too much education!) women are leading other women astray

From the moment they are born, women are unwelcome and seen as a burden. The birth of the first girl maybe tolerated but the arrival of second or third girl in a family will likely lead to visits by relatives to commiserate with her unfortunate parents.

Some argue for more laws. In reality it’s not a need for more laws it is fair and serious implementation of existing laws, to protect women as free and equal human beings. Above all what is needed is change of a toxic anti-woman culture where men flaunt multiple wives, something that is supported by religious leaders as a good thing. Men have created the culture for their own benefit, according to rules that suit them and where they have a free-for-all in oppression of women.

Whether she is killed, raped, sexually assaulted, attacked when she leaves home… it is the woman who is to blame. She is blamed whether she wishes to work, to be educated, to leave home or indeed demands any rights as a human being. According to the county’s justice system a woman is expected to put up abuse from men. It is a laughing matter that if a woman wishes to bring a case of rape or other assault or abuse against a man she will need witnesses.

Across the Pakistani society abuse of women (and children) has skyrocketed to heights never known before. Nowhere is safe for women. Even women parliamentarians are abused and assaulted by their male colleagues, which makes it known for the women that they are in a male space which does not welcome them.

The whole system – from the lowest clerk to the highest office – is of the view that women are to be blamed for their rape and murder. Even the Prime Minister Imran Khan has blamed rape of women on their inappropriate dress. His comments have shaped the national discourse. This led the activist and writer Noor Zaheer (author of ‘My God is Woman’ and ‘Denied by Allah’) to point out that inappropriate dress accusation does not explain abuse of women. According to her, what the Prime Minister said has been said for generations, where victims are blamed for their abuse. So, the accusatory finger begins to point towards the victim and away from the perpetrator. Such sexist attitudes are designed to limit the lives of women. In any case what he said is nonsense when one is to look at appropriately dressed women who are abused, such as those on the Hajj pilgrimage.

The recent murder of Noor Mukadam in Pakistan is a sad illustration of the problem of women in Pakistan. Described by The Guardian newspaper as ‘gender terrorism epidemic’, it involved the 27-year-old woman allegedly tortured and beheaded by the son of a business tycoon. “In a country where so-called “honour” killings are common practice, the brutality of the killing has forced Pakistan to confront its poor record on gender-based violence.” The newspaper also reminded us that in the World Economic Forum’s global gender index, the country is ranked 153 out of 156 countries, just above its Taliban-ravaged neighbour Afghanistan. What is appalling in the situation is not that she was murdered, which it is, but that the media and large sections of Pakistan society have blamed the victim, for just being who she was and where she was i.e., in her murderer’s house as if being there was an invitation to be deprived of her life.

Pakistan is a sick society where all systems and structures and institutional policies and practices are anti-women. It is an unsafe environment for women; from cradle to grave (yes, even after death they are not safe). So, what is it that women demand?

Demands of Pakistani women

Compared to what women can take for granted in many countries and cultures, the demands of Pakistani women are quite simple and basic. Central to their demands is equality with men, in the home and outside; freedom of movement (including to access male spaces); freedom of choice in matters such as relationships and life generally (My body, My choice); freedom to travel; freedom to drive a car or cycle/motorbike; equal access to work and opportunities; equal pay; freedom from abuse and harassment; safety and dignity in the workplace and wider society. In other words, women demand equality with men, in the home and outside. They demand all the rights that are taken-for-granted in the wider civilised global community, and which are their human rights within the United Nations charters.

British Pakistanis: Perceptions, Realities and The Way Forward

This blog was written by Dr Karamat Iqbal; Dr Serena Hussain; Imran Arif


The blog is based on a paper which accompanied a webinar on the British Pakistani community, which was organised by the Bradford-based charity QED Foundation on 23 April 2021 on behalf of Network of Pakistani Organisations UK (NPO-UK). The event was organised in response to the controversial findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was appointed by the UK government as a result of the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on BAME communities and an upsurge in popular support for the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.

The 24-page Sewell Report was published in March 2021 and examined disparities in education, employment, crime, policing and health. However, some of its findings – and particularly its denial of institutional racism and conclusion that the roots of disadvantage are often as much to do with social class, ‘family’ culture and geography as ethnicity – have been widely criticised. QED Foundation works to support the social and economic advancement of disadvantaged communities and campaigns for public policy to meet the needs of specific ethnic minority groups. It set up NPO-UK to bring together organisations and activists supporting Britain’s 1.5 million people of Pakistani origin. The network helps members to share ideas and learn from each other, break down the barriers that hold their communities back and speak with a united voice.

Migration and background

World War II left Britain with a shortage of manpower, as many of its industries required additional labourers to rebuild the nation. It looked to its former colonies, and having not long departed, its recruitment drive focused on personnel from the Caribbean, Pakistan, India and later Bangladesh, as a direct result of its imperial legacy (Hussain 2008)

Although there was migration from British India prior to the 1950s – and regions within that which now constitute Pakistan – it was not until the post-War period that we began to see higher levels of in-migration of non-ethnic Europeans into Britain. In the case of Pakistanis, the vast majority were initially recruited to work within the steel and textile industries. Samad states that within the space of a decade – between 1951 to 1961- the Pakistani figure had risen from 5000 to 24,900. By 1991, the Pakistani community had grown to 476,000, 51 percent of them were born in the UK (Anwar 1996). Their pockets of settlement corresponded with the geographical location of these key industrial hubs – such as urban centres in Yorkshire, Lancashire, the West Midlands, Luton, Slough and East London. This arrival of the community in those neighbourhoods also coincided with ‘White flight’ – the White people moving out to settle in other, more affluent, areas.  

We now know that a substantial majority of these migrants were indeed from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), rather than Pakistan proper. The primary reason is an existing relationship which two regions in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) known as Mirpur and Poonch, had with the British naval and armed forces prior to the partition of 1947. Harsh policies under the ruling powers of J&K (the Dogra Raj; Hussain 2021) left these predominately Muslim areas severely under developed as a deliberate strategy to maintain control of the state. Furthermore, Muslims were seldom recruited into formal positions in J&K and as a result needed to leave the state for employment elsewhere.

The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook which led to religious discrimination against the Muslims. This led to the marginalisation o the Muslims, including in the area that later became AJK. The disadvantages of the Muslims were made known to the outside world by Sir Albion Bannerji, the Foreign and Political Minister of Kashmir were ‘governed like dumb driven cattle’ (in Hussain, 2021)

During these early days Pakistanis and other minorities experienced racism in the form of Paki-bashing and signs on landlords’ windows such as ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’. This further encouraged the minorities to live in areas where more of their community resided.

Policies, such as the Race Relations Act 1965, were introduced to address the racism and provide equal opportunities for the minority communities. The Act was followed by subsequent legislation, such as the Race Relations Act 1976, which allowed for Positive Action to be implemented. This explained the meaning of underrepresentation:

There is under-representation for these purposes only if, at any time during the previous 12 months either no people from the racial group were doing the particular work at the establishment in question, or the proportion of those doing the work at that establishment coming from the particular racial group was small in comparison with the proportion of all those employed at the establishment from that group, or with the proportion of the population of the area from which the establishment normally recruits who come from that racial group.

Under Section 38 of the legislation employers were allowed to:

  • Encourage members of a particular racial group to apply for particular work at an establishment where they are under-represented;
  • Provide training for their existing employees from a particular racial group to help fit them for particular work at an establishment where their group is under-represented in that work.

Racial discrimination continued to be a feature of the daily lives of the growing minority communities despite the policies. Anti-racist movements were formed of all immigrant groups including British Pakistanis who began to increase their participation within the Trade Unions and local level politics. As a result of increased lobbying the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 including a statutory duty on public bodies to promote race equality, and to demonstrate that procedures to prevent race discrimination are effective.

Adopting the narrative of anti-racist movements – namely from the US and South Africa – activity was often organised under the umbrella term Black, which came to be used for all minorities, including Asians. This led to research and policy responses to be focussed explicitly on Black (meaning African Caribbean) groups (Gillborn 2008, p39). According to the Black intellectual Stuart Hall (1991), Black was created as a political category. “In the 1970s, for the first time, Black people recognized themselves as Black” (p54). It was a political response by the Black community to adopt, as their own, this term which, until then had been used pejoratively. He also pointed out how the term then went onto ‘silence’ other minority identities (p56):

It had a certain way of silencing the very specific experiences of Asian people. Because though Asian people could identify, politically, in the struggle against racism, when they came to using their own culture as the resources of resistance, when they wanted to write out of their own experience and reflect on their own position, when they wanted to create, they naturally created within the histories of the languages, the cultural tradition, the positions of people who came from a variety of different historical backgrounds. And just as Black was the cutting edge of a politics vis-à-vis one kind of enemy, it could also, if not understood properly, provide a kind of silencing in relation to another.

Later, Modood (2005, p47) pointed out that the silencing could be seen in policy discourse, well into the late 1980s:

“as is reflected in virtually all CRE publications, local authorities’ race discourse, academic texts, the ‘quality’ press, radio and television, as well as in documents of most central government departments and many large employers.”

Pakistanis also came to lose out when their particular needs were hidden under labels such as Asian, ethnic minorities, BAME and Muslim.

Data on Pakistanis

It was not until after the 1991 National Census for Population in England and Wales that comprehensive data on ethnic minorities – including Pakistanis – was available. This helped to make the case that different service provision needs were required based on ethnicity. The well-known study conducted by Modood and colleagues using the Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities (1997) demonstrated clearly how a ‘one size -or, in this case description – fits all’ approach was inadequate in understanding community level dynamics.

 The data showed the Pakistani population in England and Wales recorded as 455363 and this increased to 1124511 in the space of two decades. In terms of the actual share of the population, Pakistanis formed less than 1% of all people in England and Wales in 1991, 1.4% in 2001 and just over 2% in 2011. This constitutes a 1.1% increase compared to 0.86% increase for Indians.  This can be explained in part by a slightly younger age profile among Pakistanis, compared with Indians.  

We saw an increase in people from a Pakistani background obtaining a degree or higher degree (level 4/5) qualification in 2011, with a quarter of British Pakistanis aged 16 or over reporting this. There was also a notable decrease in the proportion of Pakistanis reporting no qualifications between 2001 and 2011, with the figure being reduced from 41% to 25.5%. This is largely a result of period of settlement and access to compulsory state education in Britain.

The data supports Modood and colleagues (1997) earlier findings, which reported that people from some ethnic minority backgrounds, including Pakistanis, were more likely to go on to higher education compared with the national average.


Pakistanis are among the most likely to own their own homes. This figure was also high for British Indians and notably higher than the national average. In 2011 Pakistanis were the most likely ethnic group (minority and compared to the white majority) to live in a house that was not shared with anyone other than their family members.

Pakistanis reported living in terraced housing more than any other group and this reflects the areas in which communities formed and the most frequently accessible housing that was available. Samad (page 6) for example writes, “In the UK in the Northern towns, Birmingham, Luton, Slough and parts of London there are Pakistani enclaves with high levels of housing concentration, a product of discrimination in the housing market and a propensity for home ownership (67% own their own homes) and lack of suitable social housing that can accommodate large families with average size of 4.4 persons per household.”

Samad points out the consequence of this; parts of some British cites have localities that have high rates of concentration of Pakistanis. As examples he offers Bradford, where Manningham ward has 60.1% Pakistanis. And Birmingham, where Washwood Heath has 56.2% of the locality populated not just by Pakistanis but usually members of the same biraderis usually Kashmiri clans.

Like elsewhere, the foundations of the Pakistani concentration in Birmingham had been laid in the early 1960s (Jones 1967). The top five Council wards with the presence of Pakistanis were: Aston, Balsall Heath, Market Hall (inner ring ward no longer in existence), Sparkbrook and Saltley.


When our communities first arrived in the UK they settled wherever they could. This has led to segregation. It means our community does not always have contact with other communities. This is a particular problem for our young people. It is possible for a Pakistani child to grow up in a neighbourhood where he is surrounded by people of not just Pakistani background (which is diverse) but those who are from the same area in Pakistan, where his family came from. Majority maybe even his biraderi, the wider family. The child may have his nursery education, primary and secondary schooling and college education in such a neighbourhood. Given the cost of higher education the child, now adult, may go to a local university while staying with his parents. Such a person is not ready to face the wider world. If he were to venture out even a few miles he would discover numerous other ethnic communities with their own different ways. When accessing jobs and other opportunities in this wider world, as well as having the necessary qualifications he would need to be diversity-literate i.e. know how to survive and hopefully thrive amongst difference which maybe new to him. In particular, he would need to be ‘White-literate’, know and understand the ways of the majority community who control much of the power and opportunities. Such diversity-literacy is now seen as advantageous with an economic bonus. Ted Cantle, an expert in cohesion and diversity, told me in an email that “many employers are now looking for employees that can think in international or global terms, as that reflects their business. Applicants will lose out if they are not equipped for this.”


British Pakistanis continue to have a younger age profile compared with the national average. In 2011, only 3% of British Pakistanis were aged 70 or over compared with 5.5% of Indians and 11.6% of the population on a whole.


According to figures published by the ONS in 2020, Pakistanis are more likely to be self-employed compared with all other groups. Fifteen percent of all people nationally are self-employed; however, this increases to 25% for Pakistanis. Furthermore, previous census figures provide an insight into the kinds of industries and occupation type Pakistanis are concentrated. Sixteen percent of Pakistanis reported being in managerial or professional occupations, with a further 19.3 % reporting intermediate and 23.5 % indicating routine or manual occupations. Almost a quarter had either never worked or were long-term unemployed; and 16% were full-time students in 2011. Whatever the cultural or other explanations for this, the sort of jobs Pakistani are concentrated in are generally low paid and have limited prospects for progression, training and wage increases.  


In terms of socioeconomic indicators, a report by the Resolution Foundation pointed out that (after Bangladeshis £16,400), Pakistanis have the lowest household income, at £16,600. The report also pointed out the low rate of employment amongst Pakistani women (37%, compared with 72% white females).

A report by Khan provided figures for median household wealth across ethnic groups. Pakistanis were reported as having an average accumulated wealth of £127,000 per household compared with £282,000 for White British and £266,000 for Indian households. However, the Pakistani figure was higher than that of Black Caribbean  (89,000), Other Asian (£50,000) Bangladeshis and Black Africans (£28,000). 

Understanding ethnic differentials

A combination of i) period of settlement, ii) area of migration – in terms of whether it was rural or urban and whether the skills brought with migrants were directly applicable to a British landscape – in the form of ‘human capital’;  iii) as well as accumulation of financial capital on migration, all contributed to the ‘starting’ position of communities, with some already being at an advantage compared with others. Modood for example differentiated between African Asians and other Asian groups as the former are ‘twice-migrants’ and already attained capital wealth and skills during their settlement in Africa prior to migration to Britain. There are a higher proportion of Indians among the twice-migrants.

Furthermore, there is now ample evidence of a ‘culture’ racism as well as a colour racism experienced in the UK. Modood et al (1997) argued that the common understanding of the ways racism works,

“Grossly understates the current scale of the disadvantage of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, and takes no account either of cultural differences between South Asians, or political alienation sometimes expressed in terms of a political Muslim identity” (p. 147)

For example, some minority communities are perceived more positively than others are. In 2018 YouGov conducted a survey with the British public in which it was reported that immigrants from India scored higher in terms of how positively they were perceived  (+25)  compared with Pakistanis (-4) . These figures are calculated based on whether those surveyed believed Indian and Pakistani immigrants provided a negative or positive contribution.

The difference in figures is stark, yet not surprising given the culture racism discussed by some scholars which is very much related to being Muslim and the prevalence anti-Muslim prejudice.   

Hussain (2017) found that even among British Muslims, some groups were more likely to face greater levels of disadvantage than others, for example, Black Muslim women scored the highest in terms of a number of socio-economic indicators when compared to white Muslim men . Therefore, we know that racism is not experienced as a blanket phenomenon, but impact some communities more than others in terms of the way they are perceived at a societal level. 

Iqbal (2013) produced a case study of Birmingham which has the largest (14% of the city, at 150,000) Pakistani population in the UK. Throughout the city’s organisations and key decision-making bodies Pakistanis were underrepresented. A number of these had a racially diverse workforce but when examined the racial minorities were often Black Caribbean and Indian. For example Birmingham City Council had set up employment targets in 2001: 5.3% for Indians and 6.9% for Pakistanis. This was determined by the size of the two communities in the city. A Freedom of Information request in 2020 pointed out that the City Council had still not achieved its twenty-year old target for the Pakistanis; they were 5.6% of the workforce against their presence in the local population of 14% (according to Census 2011). Indians in the Council workforce were 6.42% compared with their presence in the City of 4.6% (according to Census 2011).      

Discussion on ethnic penalties

Several theoretical issues are raised when discussing the possession of wealth or the persistence of disadvantage through differential labour market participation for minorities. Human capital amongst these is a key area and much has been made of education as a means of tackling racial disadvantage in order to accelerate social mobility (Berthoud 2000). However expectations, alienation, stereotyping and the greater discrimination of some groups are also areas discussed. Crucially it has been found that disadvantage remains after controlling for a range of individual and area factors. At the forefront of minority labour market progress and participation is the discussion of ‘ethnic penalties’.  Cheng and Heath describe ethnic penalties as referring to:

“All sources of disadvantage that might lead an ethnic group to fare less well in the labour market than to similarly qualified Whites’ and that ‘discrimination is likely to be the major component.”  (1993:1). 

Modood et al (1997) found that 20% of non-White respondents believed they had been refused a job because of their ethnicity and nearly half of those reporting this claimed to have had such an experience in the five years prior to the survey.

Two studies using data from the Labour Force Survey found that although all ethnic minority groups suffered an ethnic penalty these were not at the same rate. It has in the past been suggested that Caribbean men especially faced an ethnic penalty, however as Berthoud found African, Pakistani and Bangladeshis were in a very similar position. And he wrote,                                      

“Part but only a small part of disadvantage in the labour market could be explained on the basis of the relatively low educational qualifications achieved earlier in life: degree for degree, A ‘level for A ‘level young Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were worse off than their White equivalents” (2000:412).  

Modood et al (1997) found that all minority groups under study were more likely to be unemployed than equally qualified Whites, however, Pakistani and Bangladeshi males suffered the highest penalty and Indian males the smallest. In addition, analysis of similarly qualified candidates for courses in higher education it was discovered that Caribbean and Pakistani students had lower chances of entry to the red brick and more prestigious universities. They argue that penalties vary considerably between minority groups. For their analysis they used maximum likelihood methods to demonstrate that ethnic penalties experienced by minorities are not fully explained by differences in human capital and personal characteristics. They concluded that at least some of the disadvantage experienced by ethnic minorities can be credited to discriminatory selection practice by employers. 

Becker (1971) also argues that when hired the discriminated group are paid a wage lower than their actual productivity.   Discrimination in selection processes is, therefore, coherent with lower occupational status as well as higher unemployment and lower average earnings for ethnic minorities. This certainly fits in with descriptions of Muslim graduates who managed to gain employment within successful companies but who felt that they did not fit in with the ‘office culture’, were unable to participate in many aspects of ‘team building’ particularly where they are limited in socialising with colleagues or felt uncomfortable with the pub lunches and after work business dinner venues.      

Blackaby et al (1997) suggest that the higher rates of unemployment for some groups may be more socially damaging than simple wage inequality. There are arguments regarding groups who are aware that they face greater levels of marginalisation and differential incorporation resulting in a loss of desire for social mobility within a society which is viewed as alien. Young men who see themselves as being denied jobs on grounds of their ethnicity may adopt alternative lifestyles in which resentment of the social structure can lead to conflict with the establishment. 

Pakistani Disadvantage

Pakistanis are still the most likely to live in poverty and deprivation, where families can become locked into disadvantage for generations. In the House of Commons report: ‘Child Poverty in the UK’, it was pointed out that 26% of white children lived in income poverty compared with 75% Pakistani children (but only 22% Indian children). The disadvantage can be apparent in multiple domains – employment, health, and quality of their accommodation.

The Sewell Report

Following are some extracts from the above government report:

The most concentrated pockets of deprivation are found among ethnic minority groups, particularly Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black groups. p38

People in the most deprived neighbourhoods tend to be disadvantaged across multiple aspects of life. Pakistani and Bangladeshi people were overrepresented in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England: 31% or around 346,000 of the Pakistani population and 28% or around 113,000 of the Bangladeshi population lived in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England. p40-41

Homeownership figures are: Indian 74%; White British: 68%; Pakistanis: 58%. p40

The life chances of the child of a Harrow-raised British Indian accountant and the child of a Bradford-raised British Pakistani taxi-driver are as wide apart as they are, partly because of the UK’s economic geography. p29

The employment rates for the White British and Indian ethnic groups were 77% and 76% respectively in 2019. For some others it was significantly lower at 69% for Black people, and 56% for people in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group (this last figure is the result of a much lower female participation rate). p105

The pandemic is likely to have a mixed impact on the employment rate and financial stability of ethnic minority groups. For example, working in sectors shut down by the pandemic and being self-employed is particularly prevalent among Pakistani and Bangladeshi men. p108

The hourly median pay gap between all minorities and the White British ethnic group has shrunk to 2.3%, its smallest level since 2012 when it was 5.1%.223 This headline figure hides some large variations: the Pakistani ethnic group earned 16% less on average than the White British group. p110.

Most ethnic groups are now broadly level with the White ethnic group in terms of occupational class….with the exception of men from the Black Caribbean and combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups. p112

Meanwhile, Pakistani/Bangladeshi men along with Black African and Black Caribbean men, were the most vulnerable to unemployment in times of economic downturn, with the chances of getting a position in the top occupational class also declining over the decades for first generation Pakistani/Bangladeshi men. p112

The Bear Report

In the recent report by Laura Bear, for the ethnicity subgroup of Sage (the Scientific Advisory Group) has shed further light on the Pakistani (and Bangladeshi) community. While her focus was on Covid-19, it does point to the more general situation of the community. The following information is directly quoted from her report.

…our findings show that multiple disadvantages faced by ethnic groups join together to produce infection and death from Covid-19.

In summary, (Pakistani) experience more chronic, debilitating health conditions at a younger age due to health disparities. They mainly work in jobs in small-scale retail, transportation and hospitality, leading to greater exposure to Covid-19. Being precarious employees or business owners means that they are less able to negotiate paid sick leave or to stay home when unwell.

Health inequities: British Pakistani men and women have the highest levels of self-reported poor health of all ethnic groups. Pakistanis suffer severe, debilitating underlying conditions at a younger age and more often than other minority ethnic groups due to health inequalities. They are more likely to have two or more health conditions that interact to produce greater risk of death from Covid-19 (high confidence).

Occupation: Pakistanis are more likely to be involved in: work that carries risks of exposure (e.g. retail, hospitality, taxi driving); precarious work where it is more difficult to negotiate safe working conditions or absence for sickness; and small-scale self-employment with a restricted safety net and high risk of business collapse (high confidence).

In late September into October 2020, when case numbers were rising rapidly across most UK regions, hospitality and non-essential retail was kept open, exposing workers to risk of infection. When the UK entered a national lockdown on 5th November, essential retail remained open along with takeaway services even as numbers of cases rose steeply. At this point the relatively more transmissible variant emerged, creating a potentially greater risk of exposure for Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups who remained unable to work from home.

Precarity of Work: Pakistanis are also more likely to work in precarious work (short-term, contractual work, usually without union protection (high confidence). In this situation it is difficult to negotiate sick-leave, and if sick-leave is taken employees may be dismissed or penalised with shorter hours. The economic downturn is likely to have affected Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities disproportionately especially because of their profile of precarious work and self-employment.

Self-employment: (where incomes may be especially uncertain) is also more prevalent amongst Pakistani men. Pakistani men are over 70% more likely to be self-employed than White British men. This presents distinct difficulties in reducing the risk of exposure or self-isolating in the event of symptoms, as most self-employed work among Pakistani men involves contact with the public. Non-attendance at work would risk business’ viability, in part because government measures only offered one-off loans to small businesses and initially did not support the self-employed.

Household circumstances among Pakistani families amplify disadvantage due to higher numbers of multigenerational households, family members with chronic, disabling illness (at a younger age) and women involved in care work for family or others

Stigma: Pakistanis face intersecting forms of stigma and racism relating to their ethnic and their religious identity, and triggering events intensify experiences of stigma, including media coverage and central government Covid-19 interventions, for instance introducing restrictions during celebrations such as Eid and Ramadan. Stigma can cause health inequalities, drive morbidity and mortality, and undermine access to health services (medium confidence). 8. Over-burdened health services


Education is generally a determinant of success or failure in life. With reference to the Pakistani children it has been known that they have been behind many of the larger ethnic groups. 

When data first became available, in 1991, it was found that Pakistani children were underachieving. At this point 37% of white students were achieving 5AC at GCSE. The figure was 38% for Indian and 26% for Pakistani children. Since then Pakistani children have been playing catch-up. They have continued to do better but so have other children.

The Sewell Report states that:

Education is the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience.

As we have seen, not all ethnic minority groups are succeeding. In particular, the Commission acknowledges the need to support Black Caribbean, Mixed White and Black Caribbean, Traveller of Irish Heritage, Gypsy and Roma, and Pakistani boys from low socio-economic backgrounds, and lower socio-economic status White British pupils. P70

In 2019, Pakistani children were 4.4% of the population in English schools overall. However, in nursery schools Pakistani children made up 9% of the children, which points to the future school population.

The Casey Review pointed out that in 2014 nearly 10,000 Pakistani children had left school without the benchmark 5+ A*-C grades including English and maths GCSEs. The most recent data on this is shown below.

Pakistani children have not succeeded in education like other groups.

Numbers and percentage of pupils NOT getting a strong pass (grade 5 or above) in English and maths GCSE by ethnicity 2019-2020  school year (P55)


White British               194,574           50.8%

Pakistani                     12,671             52.2%

Black African              10,500             49.3%

Indian                          4,774               29.6%

Black Caribbean          4810               65.2%

Bangladeshi                4428                42.7%

Gypsy/Roma               1244                91.9%

Chinese                       399                  20.4%

The situation in 2018 was similar, as shown in the chart below.

The largest number of ethnic minority pupils leaving school without the benchmark qualifications of 5 good GCSEs are British Pakistani children. That amounts to nearly 13000 children. It is worth asking what happens to these children. How many become involved in crime? How many end up in prison? What sort of citizens, neighbours, employees do they become? Many are boys. Bearing in mind Pakistani girls do better in education, what sort of husbands and fathers do the boys become? The big question is: who is going to speak up about this problem? Members of Parliament, local councillors, Pakistani organisations?

Related to education and employment are the figures for the teacher workforce. There is a serious shortage of Pakistani teachers. The situation is even worse at deputy and headteacher level.

As well as addressing the underrepresentation of Pakistanis in the teaching workforce, we need more representation on school governing bodies and at the structural levels of education in the UK.

It is the (Sewell) Commission’s belief that all professions should seek to represent the communities they serve. P76

Findings from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) suggest that teacher diversity makes it more likely that children of different backgrounds (whether ethnic, disability, class and so on) will have someone who understands their background and a role model to look up to.p125

Experiences from the Commission’s call for evidence also highlight that although teachers from ethnic minorities are valuable in that they bring their lived experiences to the classroom and push for a broader curriculum… p75

Ethnic minorities are also under-represented in school governance. 94% of governors and trustees who took part in the National Governance Association (NGA) survey identified as White, 1% identified as Black, 2% identified as Asian, and 1% identified as having Mixed ethnicity.p128

Diverse boards, that are reflective of school communities, can ensure that decisions taken are in the interest of all pupils, thereby increasing the confidence of parents and wider communities in these decisions. p75

Here, it is necessary to point out that diversity is essential in service organisations. Where the staff are representative of a community, in this case the Pakistanis, they are more likely to provide an appropriate and culturally competent service. And where the decision-making bodies are diverse they are more likely to reflect the views of the Pakistani community. It is the community’s democratic right to speak for itself in such bodies.

The Sewell Report has asked the Department for Education to produce guidance on data collection, monitoring and analysis to better support understanding and drive policy interventions in this area, engaging and collaborating with local authorities across the UK because of the importance of local context and local data. It would be good for NPO (Network of Pakistani Organisations) to write a letter to DfE, to make sure there is proper focus on Pakistani as a data category.

Aspirations play a key role in education. This influences whether young people go to university and/or the type of jobs they do. According to the Sewell Report the aspirations of Pakistani boys are reasonably high but lower than Pakistani girls. The report (p97) also points out that Pakistani graduates earn the least of all major ethnic groups.

Homework and extra-curricular activities

The Sewell Report emphasises the importance of homework and participation in extra-curricular activities.

The contribution of parents to supporting a child’s learning is significant and a stable home provides a supportive context for children to complete homework, ask for assistance and develop their confidence and wellbeing. P61

Previous research has found that Indian students are the ethnic group most likely to complete homework five evenings a week. P70

On average, across OECD countries, students who have access to a room for homework at school scored 14 points higher in reading than students without access to a room for homework. P84

Elite universities, for example, often look for evidence of extra-curricular activity such as volunteering when selecting students. p98

Research on Pakistani children (Iqbal 2018) has shown that homework is an issue for them. Many, especially those from poorer families, do not have quiet space in which to do their homework. Many children do not have the time to their homework as they go to the madrassah after school and by the time they return home they are too tired. Even if they do manage to do the homework, many do not have someone to help them with it. One solution could be the setting up of homework clubs in the madrassah, with help from the local schools.

Moreover, such children missed out on extra-curricular activities which are an important part of education. According to Iqbal (2018) such activities have been said to be beneficial especially for low socioeconomic status students. There is now emphasis on cultural literacy and cultural capital in education. Participation in extracurricular activities is said to be one source of such literacy and capital. Extracurricular activities enable children to acquire a valuable set of white-collar work skills – how to set priorities, manage an itinerary, shake hands with strangers, and work on a team. Research has shown that students who participated in extracurricular activities did better academically than their peers.

According to Ofsted education outside the classroom leads to improved outcomes in achievement, motivation, personal development and behaviour. It also provides extra depth to pupils’ learning and experience. Young people who participate in such activities tend to have higher test scores, a positive academic attitude and better attendance. Participation in extracurricular activities has implications for community cohesion as it is an opportunity for pupils to interact with those outside of their own ethnic group. Those who participate in them meet many new people, who they otherwise would not encounter. This facilitates encounters between young people from different ethnic and faith groups and leads to better understanding, thereby building community cohesion and tackling the tensions between different groups in the community.

Research has shown that extra-curricular activities enabled young people to gain entry to university and lead successful lives in the workplace. They pointed out that whilst academic grades were the most important factor considered by university admissions teams, evidence of extra-curricular activities remains an important part of the application process for 97% of respondents. Universities most value evidence of extra-curricular activities when deciding between applicants with similar grades and for courses that have an interview stage. Majority of universities indicated that it was important for students to demonstrate experience beyond academic achievements in their university applications and that 20- 30% of a student’s personal statement should be focused on extra-curricular experience. The capital that results from such activities can lead to familiarity with the dominant culture in society and ability to understand and use educated language.

For students who apply to Oxford, cultural knowledge has been found to play a significant role, alongside academic attainment, “perhaps because it allows the applicant to persuade the admissions tutors that they have the right sort of intellectual breadth and potential, which may not be adequately assessed by examination results”. The children also missed out on extra teaching activities. They were not able to stay and develop friendships with children from other ethnic groups. After they had been to the mosque they did not have enough time to do their homework. They were also too tired.

Mosques could work in partnership with local schools and organise homework groups as well. The children are there already. Mosques are quiet places which is what the children need for their homework and something they do not always have at home.

Extended school day

The Sewell Report proposes an extended school day, prioritising disadvantaged areas to provide pupils with the opportunity to engage in physical and cultural activities that enrich lives and build social and cultural capital. The Pakistani community are named here as being two groups in particular who would benefit from this provision. This would need to be fitted in to or around the children’s attendance at the mosque. Simultaneously, there is a need for good quality supplementary education. We have to be demanding on our mosque and madrassah teachers to provide a good quality and rounded education, which makes learning applicable to everyday life.

Covid disadvantage

A report on home learning and schools’ provision of distance teaching during school closure of COVID-19 lockdown in the UK has found inequalities experienced by Pakistani children.

Children receiving free school meals, from single-parent households, with less-educated parents, and with Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage spend significantly less time on schoolwork at home than their peers during the COVD-19 school closure.

Children with Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds spend the least amount of time on home learning and are overrepresented in not receiving distance teaching provisions.

… we find children who previously received free school meals, those from lower-educated and single-parent families, and those with Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds devote significantly less time to schoolwork at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

… primary and secondary school children with Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds (P/B) spend substantially less time on home learning…

As there are proportionally more children with Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds who are in school but do not receive any schoolwork, the extent of disadvantage these children experience might be even larger than our estimations.

That is, it is not ethnicity that makes Pakistani or Bangladeshi children study less each day; rather, their schools are less involved in ongoing learning. These schools may have fewer resources, or they may be in areas more affected by the pandemic.

Pakistani women

The Sewell Report made these comments on Pakistani women.

Women in the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group also tend to have persistent disadvantages relative to White women in terms of both employment status and class position. Three quarters of the first generation and around half of the second-generation women in this group were economically inactive, although the situation has improved in the current decade. p112

More than half of women in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups are economically inactive, compared with a quarter of White women. This helps explain why Pakistani and Bangladeshi families are disproportionately represented in lower income deciles…. adults from a Bangladeshi and Pakistani background were the most likely not to speak English well or at all. p43


There are a number of particular health problems faced by the community. Pakistani men have the highest rate of heart disease in UK and Pakistanis are 5 or 6 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes.

From time to time the issue of infant and perinatal mortality appears in relation to the Pakistani community. Two recent reports have focused on this issue in the West Midlands. According to one report:

…proposed causal factor for this is the higher rates of consanguineous relationships in the Pakistani community. It was found that 49.9% of Pakistani mothers were in consanguineous relationships, compared to 15.9% across the whole cohort.

Only mothers from Pakistan had a statistically significantly higher proportion of stillbirths compared to mothers born in the UK

The other report pointed out that while there are 14% Pakistanis in Birmingham they account “for 34% of total child deaths, 45% of chromosomal, congenital and genetic deaths and 21% of perinatal and neonatal deaths.” The “prevalence of the West Midlands consanguineous unions was around 50% in Pakistani mothers”. ,


Muslims make up 4 % of the population but currently are 15% of the prison population. What are the causes of this disproportionality? What are the links with educational underachievement? What are the other causes? The issue deserves our attention.

Positive discrimination for Pakistanis

Pakistanis were late arrivals in the UK, certainly as a settled community, with families and children, as a result of the ‘myth of return’:

For many years Pakistani men in the UK were of the view that they were here temporarily and would return home after they have made enough money. This meant they did little towards settling down. Meanwhile, other communities (such as Black Caribbean and Indian) had begun to settle down and engage with struggles for equality. 

The myth only became articulated and known as such at the publication of Anwar’s book (1979). They were already disadvantaged as a community, going back generations under the Dogra and British rule. Upon arrival in the UK they were behind other minority groups and have stayed behind. The disadvantage has continued to be passed onto the younger generation causing them to underachieve in education. They in turn will pass it to their children unless steps are taken otherwise.

Often Pakistani disadvantage and exclusion can be hidden in umbrella categories such as BAME, BME, Asian and Muslim. This is especially so where the advantaged communities such as Indian and Chinese are included. In Birmingham, it was found (Iqbal 2013) that a number of organisations (Birmingham City Council, Birmingham University) had a diverse/BAME/BME/Asian workforce. However, when the data were unpicked it was discovered that Pakistanis were underrepresented or completely absent. Khan has made a similar argument, with reference to BME graduates.

If, say, a target for a greater number of BME graduates were applied, this would most likely benefit Chinese and Indian people before benefiting Black, Bangladeshi or Pakistani people. This is, in fact, what we observe in the Civil Service fast stream, where the overall BME proportion now nearly (but not quite) matches the overall population, while very few Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin people are appointed, and almost none are appointed in some year. p15

It is good to see the Sewell Report support diversity across “all professions”:

It is the Commission’s belief that all professions should seek to represent the communities they serve.

teacher diversity makes it more likely that children of different backgrounds will have someone who understands their background and a role model to look up to.

Ethnic minorities are also under-represented in school governance.

Diverse boards, that are reflective of school communities, can ensure that decisions taken are in the interest of all pupils, thereby increasing the confidence of parents and wider communities in these decisions.

Unless there is a specific and targeted focus on the Pakistani community’s representation in organisations as employees and decision-makers, the community will continue to be absent or poorly represented.

Such targeted focus to address the problem will require positive steps. This has been allowed, as Positive Action, under the equality legislation since as far back as the 1976 Race Relations Act but has made little difference to the community. What is required is a change in law, to allow Positive Discrimination for the Pakistanis. Only then will we see a truly representative workforce and decision-makers – across the education sector, service organisations, professions, employers – and achievement in education that compares favourably with communities such as the Indians, Chinese and now Bangladeshi. Such a change in the law will require the support of elected representatives; the councillors and the Members of Parliament and campaigning organisations. With a levelled playing field Pakistanis will then be in a position to compete with others more fairly.

There has been little discussion of such an idea. With reference to Birmingham (Iqbal 2013), it was suggested that given the wholesale exclusion of Pakistanis, from opportunities and power, a city-wide Positive Action scheme should be put into place across all institutions. Since then Khan has supported a similar approach in his report. He has pointed out that, while arguments for specific policies are not well understood in society, the “response, however, should be to adopt a variety of targets for different BME groups, and especially to target those that are most disadvantaged” (p15).

Causes of differential outcomes?

According to the Sewell Report the causes of unequal outcomes for some ethnic groups are not just to do with racism but are caused by broader factors.

The picture of educational achievement across ethnic groups is complex, and different social, economic and cultural factors contribute to this: parental income levels, parental career and educational achievement, geography, family structure, and attitudes towards education within the family and wider community.

Pay determining characteristics used by the ONS here are the following: ethnicity; country of birth; occupation; highest qualification level; age; sex; marital status; working pattern; disability status; working in the public or private sector; geography; whether they have children or not.

For many key health outcomes, including life expectancy, overall mortality and many of the leading causes of mortality in the UK, ethnic minority groups have better outcomes than the White population. This evidence clearly suggests that ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK but deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors.

David Goodhart, a Commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission posed the following question? which is worth reflecting on by the British Pakistani community:

Which differences in group outcomes arise from some unfair form of discrimination such as racism and which arise from behaviour patterns and preferences associated with a particular group?


Anwar, M. 1979. The Myth of Return. London: Heinemann.

Anwar, M. 1996. British Pakistanis. Warwick. CRER (Centre for Race and Ethnic Relations).

Ballard, R. 1991 “Azad Kashmir: the View from Mirpur”, in Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay pp. 513 – 517

Becker, G. (1971). The Economics of Discrimination. Series: (ERS) Economic Research Studies.

Berthoud, R. 2000. Ethnic employment penalties in Britain. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 26:3, 389-416, DOI: 10.1080/713680490

Blackaby, D., Leslie, D. and Murphy, P. (1995). Unemployment among Britain’s ethnic minorities, Discussion Paper 95–103, Department of Economics, University of Wales, Swansea.

Cheng, Y and Heath, A. 1993. Ethnic origins and class destinations. Oxford Review of Education, 19: 151–165.

Gillborn, D. 2008. Racism and education – coincidence or conspiracy? London: Routledge.

Hall, S. 1991. Old and new identities; old and new ethnicities, in ed. King, A. Culture globalisation and the world-system. Macmillan. 

Hussain, S. 2008.  Muslims on the Map: A National Survey of Social Trends in Britain. IB Taurus

Hussain, S. 2017. An Overview of Muslims in Britain. Runnymede Trust

Hussain, Serena (2021) Society and Politics of Jammu and Kashmir. Palgrave MacMillan

Hussain and Rehman (2021) Mirpur: From Magnificence to Marginalisation to Migration, in ed. Hussain, Serena, Society and Politics of Jammu and Kashmir. Palgrave Macmillan

Iqbal, K. 2013. Dear Birmingham. Bloomingdale: Xlibris

Iqbal, K. 2018. British Pakistani boys, education and the role of religion: in the land of the Trojan Horse. Routledge.

Jones, P. 1967. The segregation of immigrant communities in the city of Birmingham, 1961. University of Hull.

Modood, T. (2005). Multicultural politics – racism, ethnicity and Muslims in Britain. Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press.

Modood, T., Berthoud, R., Lakey, J., Nazroo, J., Smith, P., Virdee, S. and Beishon, S. (1997) Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Diversity and Disadvantage. Series: PSI report (843). Policy Studies Institute: London.


Dr Karamat Iqbal

Karamat left school at 16, with few qualifications. 9 years later he achieved his Bachelor of Education. Later, he achieved a Masters and now a PhD. He has worked as a Youth Worker, Teacher, Community Relations Officer and Deputy Director: Equalities. Karamat has worked as a Schools Adviser and consultant for government departments. His work has been used in Parliament. Karamat has written on education and diversity: ‘Dear Birmingham’ (about Pakistani exclusion) and the report: Arts & Cultural Needs of Birmingham’s Pakistani Communities; and most recently, British Pakistani boys, education and the role of religion. He blogs for Optimus Education and volunteers as a Hospital Chaplain.

Dr Serena Hussain

Serena is an Associate Professor. She completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Bristol and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Geography at the University of Oxford. Before joining the Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations, Serena acted as the Principal Scientist on International Migration and Multiculturalism at Charles Darwin University in Australia. She has worked as an expert consultant for a number of British government departments, with organisations such as Ipsos MORI, BBC World Service and Islamic Relief Worldwide. Her recent book, ‘Society and Politics of Jammu and Kashmir’ was published earlier this year.

Imran Arif

Imran is a professional educator, who has worked in various roles and at different levels of education in the UK. He gained his MA in Education from the University of Leeds. Imran has also worked as a process and dialogue facilitator and as a social researcher on a number of academic and community-based projects. His teaching and research interests span the areas of the social sciences, with a particular interest in social psychology, comparative religion, and philosophy of education.

Muhammad Ajeeb CBE – a living history of British Kashmiris


The book in my view had an unfair advantage. Given its subject matter – the unique, pioneering, role model for many (beyond his own community) – the writers could not go wrong. Mohammed Ajeeb CBE; a true leader.

The book helps us to learn about the person (according to those who have known him) whose life’s journey has been one of ambition, endeavour, courage, perseverance, self-discipline and unflinching resolve. They have also described him as articulate, forthright and engaging. As a researcher into the Pakistani Kashmiri community, you can guess my joy at being provided another excellent reference book, which has already been referenced in my next book on education. So, my heartfelt gratitude to Ishtiaq Ahmed, Yaqub Nizami, Zaffar Tanveer and Dr Sufyan Abid Dogra for producing the excellent book:  Muhammad Ajeeb CBE – Rising Above Ordinariness.

Early migration

The book takes us on a journey into the story of multicultural development in British society. It also offers us a glimpse of the internal workings of the Pakistani community. We learn about people living in crowded accommodation and making do with very limited food choice:

We lived in a four-bedroom house with 18 other males…. For the first two years we could not purchase any halal meat and therefore we had to make do with eggs, tins of beans, processed peas, cauliflower and potatoes and not much else. p14

The ‘push’ factor of migration.

The village, Chattro, in Mirpur Azad Kashmir, had little promise for his future life. His father, a hard-working sole bread earner, a mason by profession, could only afford the high school education that was locally available for him. Had he remained living there…he would have ended up in menial clerical jobs… Therefore, he decided to leave his birthplace and move to Karachi, which in those days was a good place (for work and part time education). p56

We learn about the efforts of the earlier migrants from our community who had little, who travelled far and who achieved much despite hostilities of racism and poverty. I wonder whether the subsequent generations, especially the current youth, could follow suit in accessing the opportunities that the world offers.

All communities

We learn that there was greater integration of the Pakistani community in the earlier days of migration. The men in the community were more willing to interact with the majority white community, at workplace, neighbourhood and public houses. 

While others in his community were still of the view that England was a temporary workplace from which they would return to Pakistan he had bought a house, been appointed to the Race Relations Board and joined the Labour Party, which was to become the vehicle for his most significant achievement, becoming the first Muslim Lord Mayor in the U.K. Given their acceptance that they were in someone else’s space, many in his community overlooked racial abuse; not him. Once he walked out of a job because the supervisor was being racist towards him. 

The word ‘community’ is a broad and inclusive one when it comes to a person of Ajeeb Sahib’s stature, given his ability and willingness to relate to, and work with, all peoples, regardless of ethnicity, religion or any other differences. So, it is befitting that, in addition to the Pakistani community, the book includes plaudits from a range of people – Hindu, Sikh, Caribbean and Christians…

“Just look at our backgrounds. Mohammed Ajeeb, a Muslim from Mirpur, Azad Kashmir; myself a Hindu from Jinja, Uganda, of Gujarati Indian origin…living, working, playing in peace and harmony in Bradford, in the U.K.. I feel blessed and proud to have him as my Elder Brother.” p69.

His appeal was broader and more mainstream. He was not a BME politician but a Labour Party politician.

“Ajeeb never tried to crawl into the limiting and belittle shell of an ethnic Pakistani or Kashmiri or Mirpuri or clan-based Councillor of a biraderi; but always took pride in being a Labour Party Councillor.”

One writer pointed out: 

His abiding legacy is the instilling in each one of us…the belief, confidence, conviction, and capacity to engage and operate across political and community divides, in the pursuit of common objectives and in the changing of people’s lives for the better. p29

His achievements are worth acknowledging and celebrating at any time. But they take on a special worth given their uniqueness and pioneering nature.

… in the history of British Pakistanis, he stands the tallest, just like the Lister Mills Chimney that dominates the horizon in hilly Bradford, giving people a sense of direction.”

A man who “has never shied away from addressing difficult issues within the Muslim communities.”

His inspirational life was summed up by two writers in these words:

By his achievements he has demonstrated that barriers could be overcome and that it is possible to chart a path to success to the highest level, even in a racially hostile climate and under adverse conditions. p29 

(He has) risen above party political lines and social and cultural affiliations to speak openly and honestly on important matters that matter to all of us. He has not shied away from controversy and he has not been frightened of criticism….p71


I recommend the book for adults and the younger generation across all our diverse communities; so that they gain an appreciation of the post-war development of our society and are better able to build on the foundations laid.

Names not numbers

Guest Blog by Mr Naveed Khan February 18, 2021

Education is powerful. It transforms lives. Getting it ‘right’ is key especially for the most disadvantaged. Deprivation should not determine destination (sadly, it does). As a former free school meal child, I’ve observed this first hand. 

This is my first post on my new blog. The aim of the blog will be to codify the success I have had in leading school improvement with a focus on raising outcomes. I will draw on my reading of research, articles and books, which have formulated my thinking and underpinned decision making. I plan to share how I have implemented strategies which have resulted in measurable impact. This includes working as part of team to transform a school from Special Measures (December 2016) to Good (March, 2018) within 15 months. This was followed by securing the best ever GCSE results in the school’s history in Summer 2019.

From the outset, I would like to state, there will be ‘no silver bullets’, no magic formulas and no jazz hand initiatives. That said, I will discuss strategies that are incredibly simple and if implemented successfully, do work. 

I have three tips which have been fundamental in my journey of driving school improvement and raising outcomes. 

1. Keep it simple, make it work

Improving outcomes is not glamorous. It relies on meticulous planning, focusing on the tiny details and using data effectively to ask the right questions. Rather than hundreds of initiatives, focus on a few in detail and make them work. This leads me onto tip 2. 

2. The power of three

Over the years, I have seen teachers working incredibly hard with little to no impact. Often, I have found, one of the underlying reasons for this is that there are multiple initiatives going on, all at the same time, with staff pulled in different directions with little clarity. This results in the age old saying, Jack of all trades, master of none.

Many have said this before, and I completely agree, focus on a maximum of three strategies in an academic year. These three strategies should be rooted in research that is known to have impact. The strategies should be understood by all and implemented gradually overtime (meticulous planning). Quality assurance activities should focus on these initiatives and CPD planning should be informed by the findings from monitoring. 

3. Names not numbers

Leading on outcomes, I have often seen the focus on percentages. Pages and pages of data with every subgroup possible. Again, here, I suggest you focus on up to three subgroups (where are the attainment and progress gaps in your school – they may overlap; for example: White British, more able disadvantaged boys). Behind every number is a child, and that’s what the focus should be on.

Of course, published performance headlines matter, but that is the end result. Building up to this point, every child should be discussed across every subject. This led me to launch the names behind the numbers campaign in September 2017. Students were discussed at a teacher level, department level, and whole school level. This resulted in every child being known, valued and understood. The impact, the best GCSE results in the school’s history in summer 2019 including Maths and Science being in line with or above national at Grade 4+, 5+ and 7+. Both these subjects were judged inadequate in December 2016.

I am going to develop my three main tips into individual blogs. Which one do you think I should focus on first?

Thank you

I am a Vice Principal in a secondary school in a London Borough. By choice I have focused my teaching career on empowering students from areas of social and educational disadvantage. I firmly believe education can be a route to delivering social justice and transforming lives.

My school has been on a transformational journey improving from Special Measures (December 2016) to Good (March 2018). Subsequently, the following year, the school achieved its best ever GCSE results in Summer 2019. I am driven by social justice as a result have focused my teaching career working in schools in areas of social and educational disadvantage. Over the course of my career, I have developed a vast amount of knowledge, skills and experiences in school improvement and raising outcomes. I am an aspiring headteacher

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Posted byMr N KhanFebruary 18, 2021Posted inUncategorized

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