This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities on increasing opportunities for women in the top education jobs.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and thank you Alison for that kind introduction.
Great to be here at Newton Prep School this morning.
And good morning to you all, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a real pleasure to see so many of you here. It’s only just over a week after International Women’s Day, so I’m glad that empowering women, the theme of today’s conference, to succeed at the highest level is still top of the agenda for so many.
Certainly, it’s remained at the forefront of the government’s priorities over recent years.
There have been so many steps forward for women - and our successes over the last few years have been vital in helping women to succeed:
there are more women in work than ever before
of those women, more are in full-time work than ever before
we’ve cut tax for 11.9 million women…and we’re introducing tax-free childcare, and we’re offering more free hours of childcare, to more children
A huge leap in the right direction.
But to focus solely on these headline level successes would be doing a disservice to all those hard-working women that we know are still disadvantaged because of their gender.
Of course, as Education Secretary and also as Minister for Women and Equalities, I would have a particular interest in teaching. But I think it’s a profession that does deserve scrutiny. It’s certainly one with an interesting history.
Looking back over the last couple of centuries in the UK, teaching has at times been a very gendered profession. From the first formal schools for boys, run by schoolmasters and religious leaders, to the Victorian-era village schools run by schoolma’ams and headmistresses, we’ve changed our mind plenty of times over the years on who we think can best educate our children.
I’m glad that we’re now lucky enough to benefit from a fantastic profession full of talented teachers and leaders, both male and female, and all equally capable of leading, teaching, nurturing, and inspiring the citizens of tomorrow.
And that’s why I love my job, because it is all about the future. Working with young people and securing the future of our country.
But that being said - recent data shows that disparity does still exist. The vast majority of our teachers - 75% - are female. That rises to nearly 90% in primary schools. But only 66% of our headteachers are female - meaning there’s a much lower progression rate for women than for men.
Specifically, at secondary school, where the majority of teachers are female, the majority of headteachers - almost two-thirds - are male. And at primary school, where men make up just over 10% of teachers, almost 3 in 10 headteachers are male. So we see that progression to leadership positions and the top jobs doesn’t reflect the number of people joining the profession and working as classroom teachers.
And for those women who do break down barriers and overcome hurdles to reach the top positions, the issues don’t end at the door to the headteacher’s office. Because the gender pay gap for teachers - seen throughout all levels of the profession - only widens with seniority.
So there are clearly 2 problems for women here. A lower proportion of female teachers move through to leadership positions than their male counterparts. And the median salary for women teachers and headteachers is less than for male teachers and headteachers.
We know that there are a number of factors at play here, including: school size, age of teachers, length of contract and also the geography where the school is located. We have a duty to make sure that gender isn’t one of these factors; that it has absolutely no role in determining how much teachers or school leaders get paid.
A key part of this government’s plan for education is ensuring there is strong leadership in schools to ensure the best outcomes for pupils. Strong leadership must, of course, be diverse. That’s why my department promotes talent management in schools to increase the diversity of the leadership population, and we work closely with schools, academies and teaching school alliances.
One cause of the current pay gap is the structure of our existing workforce, including the distribution of male and female teachers across different schools. We know that female leadership teachers are more likely to work in primary schools than secondary schools, and primary schools are often smaller, leading to lower salaries.
We also know that the historic system of automatic pay progression contributed to pay differences. Female teachers, much more likely to take parental leave or career breaks, were disadvantaged, whilst their male counterparts, working without breaks, continued to accrue automatic pay increases. I just don’t think this is fair. A woman who’s taken a year, or even a few years, out to have children and raise a family certainly isn’t less capable as a teacher who hasn’t had this time away from the classroom. We need to do much more to support these talented women who have so much to offer, and want to return to the workplace later on in life.
That’s why I’m pleased that our recent reforms to teachers’ pay should mitigate this often unfair salary discrepancy.
Automatic progression has been abolished. And so has the requirement for schools to match teachers’ previous salaries when recruiting. Both of these changes mean that schools now have the freedom to pay higher salaries if they choose - the salaries that they feel match a teacher’s experience, performance, and potential, rather than the years they’ve spent teaching.
I’m also pleased that the National College for Teaching and Leadership continues to fund a wide range of local and national programmes to address the under-representation of BME and female leaders in schools. The programme currently being funded is the Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund - helping 30 school-led partnerships to deliver equality and diversity projects. I’m delighted that the fund will continue into this year and that it’s now open for applications until mid-April. I would urge everyone here today to consider putting their school forward and applying over the coming month.
My department also funds the Future Leaders Trust, helping to develop the skills of high-potential aspiring headteachers who want to work in some of the most challenging schools in the country. Fifteen percent of current participants on the High Potential Leaders programme are from a black and minority ethnic background and at least 50% of the participants are female.
Women like Dr Jane Keeley, headteacher at Haggerston School, which was declared ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2013 after Jane’s 3 years of hard work as headteacher to turn the school around. Jane describes the Future Leaders programme as ‘a breath of fresh air’ - without it, she’s sure she never would have become a head.
Or like Nadia Paczuska, assistant headteacher of Barham Primary School, and soon to be taking up her first headship having benefitted from the bespoke coaching and high-quality training that the future leaders programme offers.
Both women, with huge amounts of talent, have plenty to offer their schools. Role models to their staff and pupils alike.
And women representative of their dedicated colleagues all over the country - some of whom I’ve had the great privilege of meeting myself.
Carol Hannaford, for example, headteacher at Plymouth’s Stoke Damerel Community College.
Sarah Bailey at ARK Little Ridge Primary Academy in Hastings…Or Erica Mason, acting headteacher at Whitefield Infant School in Pendle.
Certainly not professionals I’d want to see held back by fewer opportunities or unfair pay.
It’s for women like Jane, Nadia, Carol, Sarah and Erica, that we all have a duty to fund the right projects, develop the right policy, ask the right questions.
Because to make sure that tomorrow’s leaders are empowered to go for the top jobs and demand a competitive salary, I want them to be confident that they’ll be considered on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
The women I’ve mentioned - and their colleagues around the country - are crucial role models. They inspire the next generation of women in classrooms. Just last week I spoke to students in Plymouth who told me they aspired to become doctors, midwives, and teachers. So much of that is down to the teaching and leadership in their school.
It’s clear to me that gender has absolutely nothing to do with a teacher’s ability to innovate, inspire, or encourage.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be here. I’m looking forward to taking your questions now.