MINISTERS are facing urgent calls to improve diversity in the teaching profession after new figures showed low numbers of school staff from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Official Scottish Government statistics show just one per cent of teachers come from a minority ethnic group despite the fact they account for four per cent of the Scottish population.

The Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (Samee) said national action was required to address the imbalance with the promotion of ethnic minority staff a key part of the strategy.

Officials said a number of concerns had been raised in recent months from young trainee teachers who felt some barriers still existing in the schools they had visited.

A spokesman said: "We are concerned by both the lack of black and minority ethnic students entering the teaching profession in Scotland and the absence of black and minority ethnic teachers in promoted posts.

"This absence sends out a powerful message to young people who are considering their career choices at a time when their school experiences already present many barriers from a Eurocentric curriculum to the lack of support offered to their parents.

"We want a national strategy to promote teaching as a good and fair profession and we believe this can only be done if young people see more teachers from the ethnic minorities in their schools enjoying the same equal status as their white colleagues."

The issue has also been raised by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union which this summer called for data to be gathered and analysed on the number of black and minority ethnic people employed as teachers and lecturers - as well as the number of those holding promoted posts.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "The low number of teachers from minority ethnic groups is a significant cause for concern.

"The EIS is taking forward work in this area to explore the reasons behind the under-representation of minority ethnic groups within teaching, and to attempt to deliver recommendations on how this can be addressed in the future."

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said it was "disappointing, but not surprising" that the diversity of Scotland's population was not reflected in the teaching profession.

She said: "Generally, it feels like the teaching profession, in common with others, has a way to go in terms of representation of minority groups so that our children have the opportunity to encounter and appreciate diversity.

"We believe it is important for young people as part of their learning to have a range of experiences. Young people, whatever their ethnic group, should expect to encounter teaching staff who come from similar backgrounds to themselves as well as those whose ethnicity is less familiar."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We are committed to equality and want to see a diverse workforce at every level of the education system that reflects the multi-cultural nature of Scottish society.

"The new Strategic Board for Teacher Education, which will meet for the first time next month, has been asked to consider possible new approaches to involve all parts of Scottish society in teaching."

Stephanie Primrose, education spokeswoman for council umbrella body Cosla, said it was vital to see the teaching profession being more representative of the Scottish population.

She added: "With many councils scouring the world for qualified teachers it makes sense for Scotland to make more of its home-grown talent.

"I suspect the reasons behind the figures are complex and that solutions may also be far from simple. However, it is an issue that we should consider carefully as part of national teacher workforce planning.”