'Divisive' BAME term ditched by civil service for referring to ethnic minorities

The term was used as a catch-all phrase for anyone 'non-white'

Published

The civil service have scrapped the term BAME (standing for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) for being "unintentionally divisive" and disguising "huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups."

In a blog post on the civil service website, two senior civil servants from the Race Disparity Unit (RDU) wrote an article entitled: "Why we’ve stopped using the term ‘BAME’ in government".

A teacher from an ethnic minority talking to a pupil.
A teacher from an ethnic minority talking to a pupil.

The article spelled out the new civil service policy on this issue.

It said: "How we write about race and ethnicity matters a lot.

"As civil servants, we need to be as precise as we can in our language when describing different ethnic groups."

It continued: "We also need to be precise in developing solutions to address the gaps in outcomes between those groups."

The Government are on board with the service's new position on the issue. "Inclusive Britain" was published in March 2022 and also commits the Government to dropping the term.

In the civil service explanation for why the term is being ditched, the authors argue: "'BAME' is a catch-all term, frequently used to group all ethnic minorities together.

"This can disguise huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups.

"For example, we know that the picture of educational achievement across different ethnic groups is complex."

The article notes 'BAME' schoolchildren at state schools from Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds perform higher than the average pupils in English and Maths GCSEs. However viewing those pupils performance from a BAME perspective would "mask" the poorer performances of other children.

It is also argued in the article that the term BAME is "unintentionally divisive" because it "emphasises certain ethnic minority groups (Asian and black) and excludes others, such as the ‘mixed’, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller and ‘other white’ ethnic minority groups".

Ethnic minority groups also "dislike" the term BAME, according to the RDU.

The service say that instead of using the "catch-all" phrase, staff should refer to ethnic minorities using "the specific ethnic classifications of the census."

In cases where a generalisation is necessary, staff have been advised to say "'ethnic minorities' or 'people from ethnic minority backgrounds'."