Anne Thrope (Ms) - The dark side of the whiteboard - Promotion is a game for the boys

9th April 2010 at 01:00

I'm never going to become a manager. You only need to look at most schools' management teams to realise that, in the recruitment process, the possession of breasts and a menstrual cycle comes a distant second to two firm pecs and a mountain bike. For some reason, scrambling through amenity woodland with the principal or flicking a wet towel at a deputy head after a heated game of squash are seen as more reliable indicators of leadership potential than an outstanding track record in teaching and learning. So if you are a teacher who prefers to spend your weekends mooching in TK Maxx or munching on a chocolate and beetroot cake (do they twin these flavours for a bet?) in a National Trust tearoom, then you might as well customise your classroom - you are going to be there for a long time.

That's not to say that women can't climb the ranks a little, we just don't get much beyond base camp. We are partly to blame. As a rule, we would rather moan about injustice than actually tackle it. Besides which, we are easily distracted. It only needs the launch of a hot new nail varnish shade (this season's "greige" - a heady mix of grey and taupe) for us to abandon our job applications and reach for the brush.

The gender gap in management is a topic of fierce debate in my school at the moment. The fight is on over some internal promotions. Most of the openings are on the bottom rung - a few teaching and learning responsibility points are on offer due to an unprecedented wave of pregnancies. We have got more blooming, second trimester, bulging-out-of-their-F-cups primigravida than a National Childbirth Trust coffee morning. There is rarely a digestive left in the staffroom. One cynical view of this sudden rise in female fertility is that it is a direct by-product of our radical new timetable. Certainly, if due-dates are anything to go by, it looks like my female colleagues began voting "No" with their ovaries a few weeks into the autumn term.

Of all the vacancies we have on offer, the most exciting has to be head of year. Not only is this big bucks, but it has a seriously reduced timetable. You would have enough free time to wax your legs, grab a frappuccino and be back at your desk in time to placate a couple of irate parents and put the whole of Year 9 on report. How difficult is that? But the likelihood is that the job will go to one of the boys' club, a clique of smart 30-something men who have plotted more meteoric flight plans to Managementville than easyJet and Ryanair put together. They are easy to spot: when they are not playing five-aside, cricket or quidditch, they are joshing each other about some unspecified sporting humiliation or punching each other manfully on the upper arm.

Much as I would like to stand for HoY, I know I'm not in the running. Women who get to the top have Kurt Geiger shoes and hip bones you could fillet a fish on. Since I'm comfy in Clarks and a good size 12 (make that a 10 in MS Per Una), I don't stand a chance. Besides, someone as flaky as a filo pastry who broadcasts her marital woes to half a million others is hardly going to be invited to take tea with the governors. I have also just had a fortnight on the sick. In career development terms, that is on a par with selling crack cocaine to the sixth form. Looks like I will be in the rank and file for some time yet. And that is another good reason to hate my ex.

- Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary English teacher in the North of England.

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