Closing the gender pay gap in education

Concerns about equal pay led the government to publish the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017,  which obligates all employers with 250 or more employees in the UK – including schools – to publish details of their gender pay gaps.

According to government figures the education sector has one of the worst median gender pay gaps in the UK at 19.7% – half of the worst 50 organisations are academies or multi-academy trustsWe catch up with the team at FMP Global to consider the classroom pay gap and why (and how) school business managers need to pay attention.

Gender pay gap reports – across all sectors – have made for sobering reading. The fallout from the reports published in April 2018 has shone a spotlight on education, highlighting a situation that most in the sector have long been aware of.

The gender pay gap reports published on the education sector – as well as independent surveys conducted by NUT – have brought to light, for example, that the average pay for female teachers in state-funded schools, including academies, is £2,900 less per annum than that of their male counterparts; women earn £37,700, compared to the average male teacher’s salary of £40,660 a year.

Why is the gender pay gap in the classroom so great?

When it comes to the teaching profession, the main reason for this is that male teachers are much more likely to be promoted, especially to headships; in state-funded primary and nursery schools only 14% of all teachers are men – but 27% of headteachers are male. In secondary schools the situation is similar – men make up only 36% of the teaching staff yet 62% of heads are male.

In addition to being denied chances to assume leadership roles, those who do rise through the ranks stand on the edge of one of the biggest gender pay gaps across all sectors. On average, female heads in state-funded schools earn £5,700 less than their male counterparts; while some of this can be apportioned to the higher number of better paid male headteachers there is, nevertheless, a gender pay gap of almost £3,000 for heads across all phases of schooling.

At classroom level the gender pay gap is much lower – but still very present. Female classroom teachers in state-funded schools earn £900 less, on average, per year – although, this is flipped in primary schools were they earn slightly more, on average, than their male counterparts.

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The data also makes clear that women make up the overwhelming majority of the lowest-paid support staff in almost every education employer, adding considerably to the overall gender pay gap in the education sector.

How to bridge the gender pay gap in the education sector

Education employers – of both state-run and academy institutions – must take steps to stop and reverse the gender pay gap. They must ensure that women have fair access to pay progression and promotion. This can be achieved by:

  • ensuring that recruitment panellists have equality training;
  • making sure gender bias plays no part in pay progression and promotion decisions;
  • being open to flexible working and job-sharing in schools, including for promoted posts;
  • ending discrimination in pay decisions, such as refusing pay progression to teachers who have been on maternity leave;
  • monitoring and regulating pay decisions, particularly at academy CEO and headship levels.

An end to discrimination in pay

A 2017 survey on pay progression among NEU members found that a third of teachers eligible for progression were denied. This was because they had been absent for all or part of the 2016-17 school year due to pregnancy or maternity leave; this was almost twice the rate of female teachers denied progression overall. More than half of such teachers said that they had been specifically told that they had been denied progression because of that absence. This isn’t just bad policy, it’s illegal discrimination.

The obligation on employers in education now is to review their structures, their systems and their cultures. Employers must remove gender bias, work harder to retain talented teaching professionals and demonstrate to women in the sector that they are valued. The state of the education sector is that of a pyramid, with low paid women at the bottom supporting a small number of male CEOs and headteachers. This model needs to be changed.

While the gender pay gap in teaching isn’t going to disappear overnight, hopefully education institutions will urgently address this disparity so that next year’s gender pay report shows signs of some re-balancing, at the very least.

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