How women fare as school leaders

9th May 2008 at 01:00
How many teachers in England are women?
How many teachers in England are women?

There are 346,017, which is 74.3 per cent of the workforce. Approximately 85 per cent of new teachers each year are now women.

Of course. Teaching has always been female dominated. Nice to see there are some professions where women don't struggle to get to the top.

Ahem.

Did you cough?

Women are still significantly under represented in school senior management. In 2004, 65 per cent of primary heads were women. The new-appointment rate for female primary heads is now 75 per cent. This sounds impressive, until you realise that 88 per cent of all primary teachers are women.

And at secondary?

In 2004, only 34 per cent of secondary heads were women. This is rising, but the level of new female heads has now reached a plateau of 40 per cent. Fifty-eight per cent of secondary teachers are women.

Oh.

Indeed. Female teachers also tend to progress up the leadership scale much more slowly than their male counterparts. After five to nine years of experience, 20 per cent of male primary teachers are on the leadership scale, compared with 8.5 per cent of women.

Does that mean they're paid less?

Exactly. The average pay for male teachers is pound;32,810, compared with pound;30,880 for women.

Won't this change as more women become heads?

Not necessarily. Women are more likely to be appointed heads of smaller schools, and starting salaries on the leadership scale are based on the size of the school.

I don't get it.

If a man opts to go into primary teaching, he tends to progress faster. This is partly because men are a rare commodity in primary education and partly because, if you're a male primary teacher, people tend to assume you're aiming for a headship.

What else?

Many women tend to have a career break, or at least a career deceleration, during their child-rearing years. But the teaching career structure is not particularly conducive to breaks in service.

There are also gender assumptions made by interviewing panels. It's not uncommon for men still to be considered assertive and authoritative, while women are seen as pushy.

So what should we do?

Apparently nothing: gender continues to be a marginal research issue in education leadership studies. That said, many of the heads who are likely to be retiring within the next few years are men. Given the increasing feminisation of the workforce, it is possible that many of their replacements will be women.

Sources: Education Data Surveys, DCSF, NASUWT, GTC

'WE WORK HARDER TO PROVE OUR WORTH'

Jacqueline Valin, 54, has been head of Southfields College, in south London, for 10 years. "People make assumptions about women: that they're going to have a family, which will be detrimental to their career," she says. "When I started out, women had to do twice as much: to prove that they could have a successful relationship, raise a family and do their job. You had to do hundreds of jobs to prove you could do one.

"But I'm a woman, so I think differently. I would never want to lose excellent teachers because they have children and want to work part time. One of my senior deputies works four days a week, but I get six days' worth of work from her."

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