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Tackle 'absurd' barriers facing female teachers, urges academy boss

Astrea Academy Trust boss Libby Nicholas says she would like new mothers to be able to bring their babies to school

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Astrea Academy Trust boss Libby Nicholas says she would like new mothers to be able to bring their babies to school

Education leaders need to tackle "absurd" barriers facing women in the teaching profession, according to a senior academy trust boss.

Astrea Academy Trust's chief executive, Libby Nicholas, said there is more that could be done to help more female leaders to come through.

She told Tes: “The female leadership issue, for me, is still very alive. 

"We are seeing it shift to a degree. There are some great female CEOs out there; you have got Amanda [Spielman] as Her Majesty’s chief inspector, you have got some great female regional schools commissioners, but I still think there is more that can be done.”

Ms Nicholas acts as a coach for women in education, in both her own trust and in others.

Flexible working hours for teachers

Flexibility over working hours – she wants Astrea to be “a human organisation” – is one of the areas where she believes schools can quickly make a difference.

“I would like colleagues to work within Astrea from training to retirement, and that means we are going to go through the whole gamut of human emotions – births, death, sickness, you name it. An organisation, to my mind, should flex around that human need, not say, ‘But in our policy, it states x or y.’”

Her comments follow last week's summit held by the Department for Education, which aimed to find ways to encourage flexible working in schools.

Ms Nicholas calls for female leaders to take decisions that make it easier for other female leaders to come through.

“Isn’t it absurd for a mother to drop their child off at a different nursery and then come to school? It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “I would love for new mothers within Astrea to make sure they can see their child during the school day and breastfeed during the school day.”

Such a policy could involve having nurseries on site that teachers’ children can attend, she added. “I think that making those structural changes, which encourage and foster women in the sector, is hugely important.”

This is an edited article from the 3 November edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click hereThis week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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