Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has announced a two-year pilot programme aimed at training and recruiting 150 black teachers into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
Hamilton’s charity, Mission 44, will be working with social enterprise Teach First during the pilot, which aims to find the best way to train teachers to work in schools in poorer socio-economic areas in England.
“We know representation and role models are important across all aspects of society, but especially when it comes to supporting young people’s development,” said Hamilton.
“By establishing this partnership, which focuses on identifying the best way to attract Black talent to STEM teaching roles, we hope to create a framework the wider education industry can implement. It’s our hope other organisations recruiting teachers will support and join us on our mission to see more diversity in the classroom.”
The Hamilton Commission, also founded by the racing driver, was launched in 2019 to investigate and address the lack of diversity in UK motorsport, though Hamilton claimed in the Commission’s report that its findings also work as “a lens through which to explore institutional issues across our society that prevent Black youth from achieving their highest potential”.
There has been a longstanding lack of diversity in the UK’s tech sector, and in many other STEM fields, which feeds into industries including motorsport and other relevant verticals.
The Commission found that 46% of schools in England have no racial diversity among teaching staff and only 1.1% of teachers are black African, leading Hamilton to create the Mission 44 charity in 2021 to tackle some of the issues raised.
Through its partnership with Teach First, Mission 44 aims to find the best ways to train and recruit teachers, and to share a framework and best practices with other organisations such as education providers, to ensure more diversity in STEM teachers in England going forward.
Mission 44 and Teach First will test a combination of mentorship programmes, marketing campaigns, research, and networking events over a two-year period to see what works best to encourage more black people to pursue a career in STEM teaching.
Many experts claim that a lack of diverse and accessible role models often prevents young people from pursuing technology careers, since not being able to see people like them in particular roles leads them to believe they are not suitable for those careers.
Jason Arthur, CEO of Mission 44, said: “Black students deserve to be able to explore the world of possibilities that studying STEM can lead to and, by having more representative teachers in the classroom, we believe that they will be inspired to engage with subjects they are currently under-represented in.”
The Hamilton Commission’s research found 45% of young black people between the ages of 17 and 19 said they did not think they could become an engineer even if they wanted to, and many people in this age group of all ethnicities did not think an engineering career was for them, even if they were interested in it when they were younger.
The study also found boys were more likely than girls to consider engineering careers in their future, but this interest drops over time in boys from black backgrounds, compared with boys from white backgrounds where interest in engineering careers remains at 40% between the ages of 12 to 19.
The report made several recommendations for improving the representation of black people in UK motorsport, including supporting and empowering young black people to pursue engineering careers, holding decision-makers in firms accountable for building an inclusive environment and measuring progress, and doing more to engage young people to encourage them into motorsport roles.