Women put careers on hold

8th September 2006 at 01:00
STATE OF THE PROFESSION 2006-07: * Family comes first for female staff who are postponing their promotion bids l Teachers are retiring early * No one wants to be a headteacher * But new teachers are more confident than ever

Female teachers are putting families before careers and losing out on headships, two studies indicated this week. Men might be disproportionately represented as heads because schools are unwilling to offer job-shares in management, a poll for England's General Teaching Council (GTC) suggests.

The survey of 3,665 teachers found that women teachers were much more likely to say that factors in their private lives, such as childcare, had limited their careers. This view was held by 26 per cent of women but only 7 per cent of men.

Women make up 69 per cent of the full-time teaching force and 97 per cent of part-timers. Yet only one in five part-timers has a post with responsibilities beyond classroom and subject teaching.

Carol Adams, chief executive of the GTC, said: "What happened to job-sharing for management posts? Schools are not benefiting from the talents and potential leadership skills of a significant number of women."

The findings are echoed in the 12th annual survey of Education Data Surveys, a research firm in Oxford, published this week. It says delays in the age when women have children and when they become teachers could exacerbate the lack of female school leaders. A third of new teachers are between 25 and 30 and a further third are over 30. But the average age when women give birth has risen to 29, and is likely to be even older for graduates.

"For someone starting at 30, and then taking a career-break or even maternity leave for a year, the timescale (for becoming a headteacher) starts to become more problematic," it said.

An analysis by the Department for Education and Skills this year suggested that only a third of women who leave to have children return to the classroom.

Daisy Harman, 29, planned to have two children close together so she could return to primary teaching quickly and gain more senior posts. Her first daughter, Molly, was born last year. Mrs Harman is now four months pregnant with her second. "Among my friends, I'm young to be having children, but I thought if I popped them out as quick as possible, I could be back in school full-time by the time I'm 34 or 35," she said.

Ms Harman, from south London, said she had found it difficult to find part-time work. "Male heads don't seem that keen on job-sharing," she said.

"I was seen as a professional before, someone who was going to stick with teaching as a career, but I'm worried I'll now just be seen as a mum."

Other findings from the GTC poll show that the least popular government initiatives with teachers are academies and league tables, while the most popular is assessment for learning. Although teachers should have a tenth of their timetables free for planning and assessment, 19 per cent of classroom staff and 37 per cent of heads said they did not get their full allocation.

The National Union of Teachers this week submitted recommendations to the School Teachers' Review Body, which helps determine teachers pay, demanding heads and deputies be guaranteed the same time off.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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