Schools need to be 'as diverse as the pupils they teach'
Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan says more needs to be done to ensure that the teachers in Ireland reflect the growing diversity of pupils in their classrooms.
She said it was crucial to have a cohort of teachers, educators and school managers who reflected the changing make-up of Irish society, and much work is needed to be done to achieve that.
Her comments highlighted imbalances between the numbers of male and female teachers, as well as race and minority groups.
The head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was speaking to the annual conference of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) about inclusivity and diversity in education.
She referred to a project on teacher education at NUI Galway, which found that 92pc to 98pc of trainee teachers claim Irish nationality, and more than 95pc are "white Irish".
Department of Education data on the ethnic and cultural backgrounds of pupils enrolled in mainstream primary schools this year shows that a minimum 13pc are not "white Irish". Categories that are not "white Irish" include Travellers.
Ms Logan said an inclusive school required creating a sense of ownership and belonging across a diversity of identities and needed to be responsive to society as it changed.
She said it relied on the "practices, leadership and actions of people within the school building, and reforms beyond the boardroom and beyond the school gates".
On the issue of teacher diversity, she noted that there were far more women than men in classrooms, although in senior management of schools, "we conversely see far more men than women".
Broadening her point, she said: "Minorities, persons with disabilities or LGBT people do not make up a representative proportion of our teaching profession, and those who are in the profession are not necessarily visible in a way that offers students leadership and role models for inclusion."
The IHREC chief said she had raised the issue of diversity in the profession at United Nations level.
It is one area around inclusivity in schools in which the IHREC is currently interested, the others being the School Admissions Bill and full participation by students and with the wider school community.
The IHREC submission on the admissions bill made a number of recommendations, including a ban on the use of religion as a criterion for selection.