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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Do BAME lives matter in the Church of England?

The following are my notes of a seminar delivered by Anderson Jeremiah, Anthony Reddie, Elizabeth Henry, Lusa Nsenga Ngoy and Sharon Prentis. Any inaccuracies is my responsibility.

BAME are at the mercy of the majority community. Being white is the norm. So, minorities are defined by not being white instead of the rich diversity each of us brings. Lives of minorities are of inferior status and less valuable if not negligible.

The church in general and the Church of England in particular is a product of the wider social framing. The church replicates and mirrors the normativity of white lives as special, superior, essential and all others as inferior.

Society and church are primarily defined by a particular privileged majority community that sees the minority communities as neither equal nor valuable; as something that needs to be included at the behest of the majority community. There is a gatekeeper, there is fencing and framing within which the minority community has to be accepted. So, you will be accepted if you fit into the norm. However, the gospel of Jesus Christ questions such a social framing. It gives self-worth to every living being bearing the image of God as proclaimed in the Old Testament, as a God who embraces everyone and redeemed by the blood of Christ, gathered as a family as described in the book of Acts.

The church by its very nature is diverse. It cannot be defined by one particular norm. By its very nature, the church cannot be defined by any one majority community. Therefore, if BAME lives are not valued in the Church of England it has to seriously reconsider its definition as a church. If the Church of England is defined by a white majority, is it a church?

Minorities in the Church of England continue to be measured from the white privileged position which has access to power, opportunity and agency.

To ask the question ‘do BAME lives matter in the Church of England’ is absurd. It should be axiomatic that all lives matter. If our lives mattered we would not be asking the question in the first place. We wouldn’t need a movement if humanity had behaved in the way God had intended. We have to start with the failure of the church to be the church.

Theology of good intentions

When the church is accused of not caring for those on the margins they set up a working group, they produce a report, they have apologetic rhetoric that says we have not done better in the past and promises that we will do better in the future.

After the working group has been wound up and the report has been published with its recommendations life goes back to normal. Things are done the way they were before; until another incident forces another apology… Then we go through the same cycle again. Another working group, another report, another set of words… another theology of good intentions.

Instead what we need is radical action for change. And dethroning of whiteness

Original sin of theology; silence in the face of white supremacy

The Church of England has to ask itself who is its real lord and master. Is it Jesus Christ, a Palestinian Jew who was on the side of those on the margins or is its white supremacy? Until that question is addressed our lives are not going to matter; they will continue to be governed by the theology of good intentions.

How can a white person in 2020 ask ‘what does racism look like?’

Do BAME lives matter in the Church of England? The answer to the question is: the evidence tells us not and the experience tells us not.

My family have been Anglicans since 1643. They were slaves and indentured slaves.

When my mum came to this country from the Caribbean, she, like others, went to an Anglican church but it wasn’t the church for her. She ended up in a Pentecostal church.

Often Black lives do not matter. We are being called to repent, to lament.

The moment the Church became captive of imperial powers it lost its ability to be the church that originated in the margins. (I wonder whether the moment the Church became safe, it lost the voice it was meant to speak with. It stopped being persecuted because it was no longer posing a threat).

What would the church’s reorientation look like?

Those who currently hold the power in the church need to relinquish it and step back. With power comes privilege. Will there be relinquishing of power?

All theology is contextual. It is also autobiographical. It is (wrongly) presented as universal. This is especially so with white theologians. They pretend to be neutral, well informed, scholarly …Utter nonsense. Everyone should admit their starting point, their bias.

Theology is human speech about God. God does not do theology. Humans do. But we do theology from our locatedness as creatures. God is the creator; we are his creation. We can only write partially.

When we have all our voices around the table, then and only then we get close to who God is. It’s a lot better than just having a limited number of voices, usually white. So, a question worth asking is: who is missing from around the table?

As a minority seminarian I learnt European theology. By doing so I lost my ‘mother tongue’; because I was being taught to speak someone else’s language.

Education is key to transformation. But it’s sad the church has lost its pedagogical tool of empowering and equipping people.

How to enable BAME people in more senior roles in the Church of England?

We would never need to say: how to enable white people to do so; to get there and to flourish effectively.

We have the reports. We know what’s needed. What we need to do is to remove the structural barriers.

There is a lot of patronage in the church. This is likely to benefit white people. We have to be honest; we have an appointments process that is not fit for purpose. The church needs to make room for talented BAME people. The patronage which means there is a lack of transparency. So, the structures and systems that allow this have to be changed.

How can we be a model for society?

We have Jesus as our model. He thought things were not right, so he decided to challenge it. He wanted to offer a new model. He invited people to follow him.

So, the very task of the church is to be the alternative model.

The church should enable the presence of God in every community that we live.

If the presence of God is not facilitated by each one of us whatever ethnic background we happen to be then we cannot call ourselves as church.

In any situation we should ask: who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged. We should then ask what we need to change in order to advantage the disadvantaged. What structures and models do we need to operate so that the normative way of doing things is turned over?

The Beloved Community in the Episcopal church is a good example. It contains repentance, reconciliation, proactive action, identifying with those on the margins and having courageous conversations.

It was said of the First Century church: look how they love one another. Do we now really love one another?

Council of World Mission is another example. They moved their headquarters from London to the global south in order to decentre empire. They are planning reparations.

Bishop Francis-Dehqani, a Persian Christian added:  

  • Being powerful in and of itself does not make us an effective church.
  • In answer to the question: do BAME lives matter? the answer is: BAME lives matter to God. The church is God’s expression on earth through the power of Jesus Christ.
  • If BAME lives matter to God then the church is not truly church or it’s a very diminished church until it fully encompasses that. To do so it need to fully understand and practice justice

My holiday afternoon with Dr Martin Glynn and Dr Jo Shah

The following are my notes of a conversation between Jo and Martin. I recommend you listen for yourself.


I am glad I am alive, and I am glad I am of some use.

I am 63 now (so me coming from a culture where age is respected and means wisdom I am very pleased).

I am the original black nerd, from a street background. Grew up in a house with a library and radio was my theatre (I am jealous). Telling stories at 16.

Just don’t tell him he can’t do something. Remember Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.

The journey

This person comes up and tells me he was a producer for Radio 4: have you ever written a radio play? That’s how I got my first radio commission.

Then someone asked me to write for TV, for Casualty. Then he read a book. Offered to write a script for it.

Then he did an adaptation of Mark Twain. It got accepted.

Then into criminology in academia, via work in prison. This was after a realisation that the real stories of men (especially Black men) were not making into the public consciousness. It made me angry. Masters (without a first degree) and then a PhD. I was an artist before.

I aspired to get into Broadway and West End.

Transformative narrative, from an entertainment narrative.

Race is not for the swift but for those who can endure.

“You are not going to come into your own until you are in your 50s and 60s. The life before is an apprenticeship”. Thank you Martin; I am just getting started.

What makes people to stop offending?

Do black men have a voice outside of the criminal justice system and mental health? To understand black men is to understand me.

My children are the ages as Trayvone Martin and Stephen Lawrence. I am because we are, and we are because I am.

Navigating the (white space) of the academy

It’s like being in a prison. The only difference is the job titles of those in charge. They operate with sensitivity, but you are still on a plantation. You look outside from the university; into the field which is the community.

I always wanted to create counter-narratives. I still do. So Critical Race Theory and intersectionality were a logical place to be.

I am not an artist or an academic; I am a storyteller. My doctorate enables me to tell my stories; so, they’re not thrown into the bin.

Academia; it’s just buildings.

When I hear someone complain about a photocopier, I want to say to them: you’re lucky; you have a photocopier.

Someone said to me: how come you are an academic; you sound too rough.

I realised I was surrounded by people speaking properly.

The oppressive nature of white spaces such as the academy.

If I come to work too early, people may think I am a cleaner. A saying from the 1960s: I might be a toilet cleaner but at least I am not black.

Decolonisation requires resources.

Interest convergence. The institution is now interested. The only change is that which is wholesale; anything else is just tinkering.

A lot of us have forgotten who the enemy is.

Where do I position myself? What resources do I have? What tools do I need?

I am not cut out for university. If 6 Black people are sitting together in the cafeteria, people think it’s a new Black Lives Matter movement. But if 6 white people are sitting together: “they’re having a discussion”.

For six or seven hours we think we are equal. But the moment I get out on the street and I get stopped by the police…

His favourite place in the library is not the classroom but the library.

God did not put me on earth to go to university, but he put me in spaces to get experience. He put me in university to show people what it’s like outside. University can give you the tools to transform the community. It’s a place to strengthen my brain capacity.

Funny stories

How dare you talk about Romeo and Juliet to illustrate gang warfare!

Was it because I was black!

Reflections on the life so far and what next?

Ask him a question. He says, “do you want me to give you an educated response?” It’s been very disappointing.

My mum said: always have something to fall back on. Nothing lasts forever. So, I can do lots of things.

Successes and learning

The biggest success has been failure; to talk about failure. I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded. The students want to know how I overcame failure.

I always want to connect with students as humans. So, I share ‘me’ along with my content.

In traditional societies it was the elders and story tellers who passed on the wisdom. There is not enough story telling in university.

In my contract it talks about attainment but not about the competencies I have brought to the academy.

In my lessons I say: your experience matters. Let’s talk about it. Let’s weave it into the learning.

Critical Race Theory with David Gillborn

My notes of a Talking Race podcast from the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett University.

CRT developed in the US, in law schools. According to the theory racism is fundamental to society’s everyday working. White supremacy is normal. Anyone questioning faces severe consequences.

Minoritised groups are always hit by crises first, the hardest and for longest (Gillborn 2007). Now we know that to be true in the Covid 19 crisis.

Systemic racism

It saturates normality. It saturates the economy, the health, the criminal justice service, education…it saturates the world. Racism is not just outside in the wider world; it’s in your home too. It’s in the programmes you watch on TV or listen to on the radio. It’s in the books on your shelves.

Racism operates at every point in the education system. It operates how White people, who are usually the people in charge of the system, make certain assumptions; about what it means to be clever and who is clever, what does ability look like in a classroom, what does a clever five year old look like, what does a disruptive five year old look like. How do you tell the difference between someone who is bored and someone who is challenging? These assumptions are absolutely vital at every stage of education.

The fact that racism is systemic is not because someone at the top is directing it; it’s worse than that. It’s shaped by the white people (in charge) and their assumptions from the earlier days. It comes natural to them. Policy makers don’t have to sit in Whitehall thinking: how can we make things difficult for black kids and better for white middle class kids. They don’t have to think that because on average all policies will do that automatically.

If you don’t set out to make a policy antiracist it will tend to be racist in its consequences because people making the policy and people enacting the policy at every level will embody those same racialised and racist processes in their decision making. So, one of the constant dangers is that we fall into a competition: is it individuals or is it systemic?

I remember the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. It drew attention to the ‘a few rotten apples’ theory of racism- it was just a few bad police officers, or, in education, a few nasty old white teachers; once we’ve got them out of the system everything is going to be great. The Lawrence Inquiry opened people’s eyes to the reality. It pointed out that racism inhabits the whole institution – the institution of education, the institution of the criminal justice system…. Literally, within a few months of that inquiry the Home Secretary said: well, it’s not the institution it’s the people within it.

(According to Gillborn) It’s all of them; it’s the institution, it’s the rules, the way people get promoted and it’s the people who are making those decisions, because racism infects the whole system. It structures the system.

What does systemic racism look like in education? It looks like…there is a pipeline. If students follow certain pipelines they end up in certain places. They can’t do the career they wanted to do because it’s not open to people who took that route.

A five-year-old black child may begin with certain worksheets or put in certain groups or tables, some of which may be deemed clever and given high quality tasks and some are given simple tasks. As the child moves through primary school the gaps are getting bigger with other kids and s/he is seen as less able or more challenging.

They then move into secondary school but how they were seen in primary school and the opportunities they were given or denied goes with them. The child is likely to be low ranked. Cover less of a curriculum. Have a less experienced teacher. More likely to get into trouble; even if they do the same thing as a white kid research tells us they are more likely to be penalised. They are more likely to be given a fixed-term exclusion. They are more likely to be given a permanent (original emphasis) exclusion. Even if they get to the end of secondary school they are less likely to be taking high-tiered GCSEs where you can get the highest ranked passes which you need for A levels. Even if they do the A levels a lot of Black kids are steered to do the vocational qualifications. And if they buck the trend and get good A levels they then apply to university, they are less likely to be accepted at elite universities than a white kid with the same (original emphasis) qualifications. Even if they get into the elite university they are less likely to get a top-ranked degree because in the university these same (original emphasis) processes apply. So they are less likely to get a first class degree and even (original emphasis) if they do get a first class degree they are less likely to get an equivalent job than a white person with the same degree because the racism is sitting there in the labour market as well. So, that (original emphasis) is systemic racism. It’s not one or two bad individuals it’s the whole (original emphasis) system and the vast majority of the individuals within the system who are enacting that racism on a day (original emphasis) by day, minute by minute (original emphasis) basis.

It’s that cumulative way in which (ref middle class black parents research which challenged the myth that it was about class, not race. Low expectations. The disciplinary process…

Teachers predicting the grades because of C19.

It’s bad news. We know that they will systemically be predicted lower grades than they are capable of getting. We know black kids will have been less well served than their white counterparts, regardless of social class. Some minoritised students will do well out of it such as Chinese students, as the ‘naturally gifted’. But for black students, the Bangladeshi students, the Pakistani students that (teachers predicting the grades) will be bad news.

White working class underachievement

On this issue David and I see things differently as I have said elsewhere.

For David, White working class underachievement is a lie. But that has fallen on deaf ears. We know the latest investigation into race inequality will (original emphasis) include a concern with white working class children. That is astonishing.

Unconscious bias

It’s the multicultural education of our times. It’s designed to not get people’s backs up in the way talking about racism does. It has no edge, no understanding about history, no concept of power (original emphasis). It’s not whether we like this or the other; these things are about power.

UB has come to be a way of having a coded conversation that is supposed to cover racism, gender, gender reassignment, disability…. everything you want to throw in there. It is about power. It can be testing for White people. We will do UB and in ten years time we will do something similar because the inequalities will still be there. Some will have got worse because of UB because it’s taking time and attention away from the real problems.

Cycles of racism and responses to racism

After Stephen Lawrence everyone became antiracist. Universities, schools, Ofsted…. But then it disappeared. Now the only reference to race in the Ofsted inspection framework is an optional extra; that inspectors can look at if they really want to, but they don’t have to.

And we know from research on school inspections that inspectors don’t like to talk about race because it is seen as political; it’s seen as aggressive. If the school is doing well overall in its exam results, it’s best to stay away from race. And if you raise (original emphasis) race as an issue be ready for the school to come back and challenge. Most Ofsted inspectors are White people who don’t feel competent to talk about race (original emphasis).

Jack Straw had said, immediately after Lawrence: every school is antiracist. Now, 20 years later, most schools are not antiracist; they’ve never been antiracist and the school policy from the top down is focused on the white working-class children. Race will disappear again if we don’t make people accountable. If it just becomes slogans and badges on people’s lapels nothing will change

If Gillborn was in power…

It’s not rocket science; it’s about priorities. Equality Impact Assessment for every policy, that before you enact a policy you look at all available data to say how is this policy likely to impact different ethnic groups. And if some groups are negatively impacted then you change the policy, or you find a different policy.

Policies are implemented on the back of what the government think is a good idea and that is usually structured by particular interest groups that feed into political parties. When it comes to exclusions and underachievement we know we can do because we have done it in the past. Exclusions went down especially for Caribbean kids during a particular period in the Blair government because the government realised there were too many exclusions.

We can get achievement up … we have done that. Remember schools used to get 10% passes. Things changed but it widened the gaps between Indian, Chinese, and white middle class and others. If we want to change things on achievement we have to be specific about where race is concerned. It’s no good saying: we want to raise achievement for all because actually what happens is we don’t raise achievement for all we raise achievement for those groups who are already doing better.

We need to make people accountable. For example, if Vice Chancellors don’t achieve the outcome they don’t get their pay rise.

Anything else

Racism is fluid and complicated and always has an answer. When White people think of racism they think of Nazi thugs. They think of something horrible, vicious, distasteful. Really obvious. They don’t think about business as usual.

Minorities who side with whiteness and white power are rewarded. And minorities who name the reality, who name white racism are likely to be written off as special pleading, who are looking for favours. Racism is not a simple, monolithic thing. Racism is tremendously complicated. Antiracism is never done because no matter what racism will always adapt.

When God disrupts your life

Having had serious disruption at age 12 (when I was suddenly uprooted from the safe and known life in my Kashmiri village), I have always appreciated order, structure and predictability. I had that in my employment, especially in my college job. I had been there 13 years, a middle manager, with a good pay and respectable title (Deputy Director: Equal Rights and Opportunities Management Unit). Being a deputy brought with it a certain cushioning; there was always my boss who would keep an eye on matters and my contribution. 

Then it all changed. My employer informed me I was no longer needed at my grade level but I could step down and stay; or leave. This was a major life decision so I systematically set out to seek counsel and pray about it. The last person I spoke to said to me to listen to my heart “because God will place in your heart what he wishes you to do”. I followed that advice and accepted redundancy. It was a major step of faith and trust in God. Otherwise why would I leave! I had a family to support, pay the mortgage and other expenses. Even a step down would pay me a reasonable salary.

It was the right decision. I heard God right. It has been the best 20 years of my life. Of course, it has had challenges but then that is where the growth has come. Being self employed is fun and exciting but most of the time one does not know if and when the next job will come.

During this period I have done more than I could have ever imagined; work, study, writing, relationships…. Then my serious illness 6 years ago! I have never been more conscious of the gift of life because of that event. Since then I have done even more, finishing the PhD and thrived on all that which has come as a result. 

What if I had not left my college job? But then, what if my parents had not made the sacrifice to part with me as a child fifty years ago. Was it a part of God’s plan to live a different life? I hope so. 

How to differentiate in race without being divisive?

I have worked in equalities for over four decades. In the 1970s and 1980s race meant all of us because we considered ourselves Black. When Dummett published her book ‘A Portrait of English Racism’ or Humphrey and John published ‘Because they’re Black’ we knew they were talking about all of us. 

Later, we came to focus on specific ethnic groups within the ‘Black’ category such as educational underachievement of Caribbean children (Coard, Rampton). From 1991 onwards we discovered that the Asian achievement had problems within it because Pakistani and Bangladeshis were under-achieving. Slowly, we began to realise that this was not just in education but generally too; these two communities were found to be much more disadvantaged within the Asian category.

My own work has focused on Black (as a political term), Asian, White working class, the disadvantaged and now Pakistani children’s education (and the community more generally).

We know our communities have differences and similarities in heritage, context and outcome. There are times when the overall category of BAME (like the Black of old) is sufficient as is Asian or ethnic minorities but there are times we need to look at the specific communities (Black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) and their access to opportunities and power. When doing the latter I often feel a bit of guilt, in case I am seen to have something against the other minority communities which I don’t. 

Is BAME(ed) the new NAME?

My 50 years in the UK runs parallel with, and is a case study of, multicultural education, from its birth to death and rebirth.

It was in 1965 that the government published the Education of Immigrants, possibly the first such policy. In the opening sentence of the circular (Circular 7/65, issued on 14 June 1965) we learn that children of immigrants were a ‘problem’. The Circular was designed to consider the “problems” and offer advice to local authorities and schools within them.

One of the aims of the Circular was to enable the newly arrived children of immigrants “to be given knowledge and understanding of our way of life”. It spoke about “assimilation of immigrant children”. In its view this depended “a great deal in the early stages on the teacher’s knowledge and understanding of the children’s heritage and of the religious, social and cultural habits and traditions that have influenced their upbringing.”

It also saw the presence of immigrant children as an opportunity for other children to increase their understanding of where they (the children) had come from.

The policy spoke of ‘spreading the children’: “as the proportion of immigrant children in a school (if it goes over one third) or class increases, the problem will become more difficult to solve and the chances of assimilation more remote.”

If the numbers of immigrant children went above one third in a class or in a school then they were to be ‘dispersed’. This came to be known as ‘bussing’ and was implemented in areas such as Bradford and Southall. Parents of ‘non-immigrant’ children were to be reassured that their children’s education was not going to suffer.

The policy of ‘no more than one third’ had been designed after advice from the Birmingham MP Denis Howell, who was my MP and later when I became middle class I moved a few doors from him.

Birmingham’s response was to establish a team of English as a Second Language teachers. It also set up two Immigrant Reception Centres which provided intensive English teaching to all immigrant children coming into the city (except those who were West Indian; they were assumed not to need such provision).

As to ‘bussing’ it would appear the policy was too late for Birmingham. There were too many schools already with more than 30% immigrant children. It would have been too difficult to arrange transport in order to move them across the city. It was also felt that the White parents in the Outer Ring would not have liked to see immigrant children arriving in their schools. I don’t know whether they ever considered moving White children to the Inner Ring schools in order to create a racial balance. So, things were left as they were.

Five years later

I arrived in the city in 1970. I began at the Steward Reception Centre. After two terms here I transferred to a secondary modern school near where we lived in Nechells. The school had a policy that all brown children were sent to Mrs Hussain, the only Asian teacher in the school. There was much racism in the school, involving both white students and teachers.

Multicultural Education

We had had the publication (1971) of Bernard Coard’s ‘How the West Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal’. Later we had the Rampton Report into educational underachievement of West Indian children. It spoke of racism which did not endear it to the government so they replaced the chair with Lord Swann (who published his Swan Report in 1985). The government did not much like his report either and the Secretary of State for Education Keith Joseph gave it a lukewarm endorsement in his Foreword.

For a brief period in the teaching profession there was a great deal of emphasis on multicultural education. Many excellent works were published. During my teacher training we were exposed to some of the developing ideas. When I joined the then Multicultural Support Service in Birmingham there were probably over a 100 in the Service including the Antiracism Development Team.

During the New Labour government there was much emphasis on multicultural education in Initial Teacher Training and in the then new Teacher Standards. Then came the slow death of such thinking. This was the start of the colourblind ideology which did away with multicultural education, leading one commentator to talk of the death of multicultural education.

There was NAME

Parallel with what was going on in schools and the education system generally, there was teacher-led grassroots activity, in the form of the National Association of Multiracial Education. Later, it became the National Anti-Racist Movement in Education.

Now we have BAMEed

For a couple of years I have been aware of BAMEed. It is is a movement initiated in response to the continual call for intersectionality and diversity in the education sector. All members are volunteers and have committed their time and efforts into creating a tangible support network to equip teachers and leaders with the tools to progress into and through the workforce.

BAMEed connects, enables and showcases the talent of diverse educators so they may inspire future generations and open up the possibilities within education careers. Like NAME, it was founded by, as the old saying used to go ‘Black and White working together’.

Over a year ago, I was invited to deliver a workshop at their annual conference. Recently I have learnt about and joined BAMEed West Midlands. There are similar branches across the country. In addition, the network works in partnership with a wide range of organisations who are similarly working towards equity.

After a couple of conversations and meetings, I have concluded that this ‘movement’ is very like the NAME of earlier days. Just like then there are now local groups across the country. Working with teachers of this age in this way certainly has given me much needed hope. Maybe some of this grassroots activity will percolate upwards into the colourblind corridors of the Department for Education and Ofsted.