Schools will keep losing talented and experienced staff if they fail to support teachers experiencing the menopause, headteachers have been warned.
Menopause-friendly policies are vital to help retain and recruit teachers, Nicky Botterill, headmistress at Bruton School for Girls, told the Girls' Schools Association conference today.
She pointed to survey findings showing that a quarter of women going through the menopause have considered leaving their job. Schools simply “can’t afford" to lose this many staff, Ms Botteril said.
She said: “Over many years, this talented pool of women has been lost. But because of awareness-raising programmes, we will be able to halt this and this is a really important part of retaining staff.
“This is a fast-growing demographic in the workforce. An increasing number of women are now in senior leadership positions.
Menopause support for teachers
“It’s one in eight women, it’s going to be one in six going through menopause, so it’s a really important issue to be discussed at the moment. It’s a really important issue for us educators to talk about, and especially when there is a teacher retention and recruitment crisis.”
Ms Botterill said that often women do not realise why they are experiencing certain symptoms at first, meaning that programmes raising awareness for both staff and students are crucial.
She said: “It’s different for every woman. Every single woman has a different array of symptoms and one-size-fits-all approaches don’t work.
“I know of women who have left the profession who perhaps wouldn’t have done had they had more support.”
Speaking to headteachers at the GSA conference, she suggested a series of actions that girls' schools can undertake to make their school a more "menopause-friendly" environment.
Talking to Tes after the session, she said: "For some people, it was a new issue, but many of them had questions surrounding it because the debate has been raised nationally.”
Her tips for supporting teachers going through the menopause included:
- Implementing a specific menopause policy that provides support for individual members of staff who require assistance.
- Improving awareness of menopause in the school leadership team.
- Supporting staff requests for flexibility, such as undertaking non-contact times at home, reducing hours or changing hours on a temporary basis.
- Giving individual employees – teachers and support staff – control over their immediate working environments such as temperature.
- Providing easy access to cold water, toilet and washing facilities with provision for women to store their own sanitary products and change of clothes in a secure area.
- Ensuring that risk assessments take account of the needs of menopausal women and that adjustments effectively remove or control risks.
- Nurturing a menopause-aware workplace to enable women to disclose their condition, to seek advice, support and any appropriate adjustments.
- Providing points of contact or "buddies" whom women can go to for advice, such as individual trained volunteers.
- Being aware of how the menopause might impact on appraisal or pay progression for teachers; consider adjusting objectives to take account of menopause-related absence or where menopause symptoms may have impacted on performance.
- Avoid detrimental treatment related to menopause and being supportive of women who are absent for menopause-related reasons, adjusting absence-monitoring arrangements to minimise stress.
- Challenging negative menopause stereotypes and stigma around the menopause.
- Demonstrating support for older women and others going through the menopause by, for example, supporting requests for counselling or other emotional support.