WOMEN have overtaken men for the first time in the role of school head.
Latest figures released by the Department for Education and Employment reveal that in March 1998 women made up more than 51 per cent of all headteachers.
That year, there were an extra 200 women heads appointed in state schools. During the same period the number of male headteachers dropped by 700.
In primary schools the proportion of women headteachers is now over 57 per cent. The percentage rate has been rising at around two points a year for the past two years and may reach 60 per cent by next year.
In secondary schools women are making slower progress. Women now account for 27 per cent of secondary headships, up from 22 per cent in 1994.
The number of women holding deputy head posts has also increased.
More than four out of five deputies in primary schools are women, although amalgamations and closures have led to the total number falling by about 400.
In secondary schools just over a third of deputy heads are women, but the loss of posts meant that there were around 100 fewer women as deputies in secondary schools last year, than in the previous year
In special schools there was virtually no change in the split of about 60:40 of men to women holding senior posts.
Although women have made some progress in obtaining the most senior posts in schools, overall they are still under-represented when compared to the number working as classroom teachers. Currently, more than two-thirds of all classroom teachers are female.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org