Investigation: More than half of 100 biggest gender pay gaps are in schools

Women make up most of the staff in schools and academy trusts – and are also paid less, on average, than men

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Schools and academy trusts make up more than half of the 100 organisations with the biggest gender pay gaps reported so far.

More than 6,600 organisations had reported their pay gap data yesterday – and of the 100 firms with the largest median gender pay gaps, 51 were schools or academy trusts.

The median pay gap – the gap between the midpoint of men’s earnings and the midpoint of women’s earnings – is given prominence by the Office for National Statistics when reporting pay gap data, as it is less likely to be distorted by a small number of people being paid significantly more than other employees.

The gender pay gap does not compare the pay rates for men and women doing the same work – but the average paid to men and women, regardless of their jobs.

The gender pay gap data published by the government shows that the Royal Hospital School (RHS), an independent boarding school in Suffolk, has a median hourly rate for women that is 66 per cent lower than men’s – the largest median gap of schools which had reported yesterday.

In its gender pay gap statement, the RHS says that many of its female employees are employed as cleaners and laundry staff, attracting lower pay rates. It adds that a significant proportion of senior positions are held by women.

"RHS is committed to treating all staff, male and female, equally when considering pay and conditions within job roles," it states.

A Tes analysis of the data submitted last week revealed that among the 227 schools and academy trusts which had then reported, the average of the median pay gaps was 27.4 per cent – compared with a median pay gap of 11.5 per cent, on average, nationally.

'Microcosm of society'

The average size of the mean pay gap in schools and academy trusts was 18.8 per cent – notably larger than the 13.1 per cent average of the mean pay gaps across the 2,676 organisations which had reported on 20 March.

The data also revealed that the top roles in schools are more likely to be held by women, than the top jobs in other industries.

“It reminds us that schools are a microcosm of society,” Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said. “This data does not just cover teaching staff, but all staff, including people who are cleaning, the dinner ladies and the teaching assistants.

“There is encouraging news about women in leadership – and that ought to spur us on to do everything we can for the future, to demonstrate to young people that young women should be aspiring to do as well as they can, just as young men should be.”

But Jon Richards, head of education for Unison, said that the fact that many schools outsource cleaning and catering means that women doing that work are not counted in the figures – and he called for more transparency.

Public sector organisations must report their gender pay gap data by today, but private sector organisations have until 4 April.

Organisations with 250 employees or more must reveal the difference between the average pay for men and the average pay for women (the mean gender pay gap), they must also publish the median pay gap – the gap between the midpoint of men’s earnings and the midpoint of women’s earnings. The differences in bonus payments between men and women and the distribution of men and women across the pay scale must also be published.

This is an edited article from the 30 March edition of Tes; subscribers can read the full article here.

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