The gender balance of the teaching workforce

26 Mar

In the first year of this blog is wrote about the ongoing problem of attracting male role models to the teaching profession.  As I noted in that piece this was a concern that the GTCW had raised as early as 2005 when male representation was a lowly 26.9% of the workforce.  When I wrote about the issue in 2013 it was an even lower 26.28%.

According to the latest Stats Wales figures (2013/14) there are currently 27,064 teachers in Wales.  The gender breakdown is 20,209 female (or 74.7%) and 6,855 male (25.3%).  Clearly instead of finding a way to increase male ratios we are stagnating.  Indeed even seeing a continual dip, albeit marginal.  I rehearsed the reasons why this is an issue in the original piece so I won’t repeat them here.  Suffice to say that given the important function teachers play as role models having a diverse and equal balance of genders, ethnic minorities and abilities is crucial to establishing a more equitable society.  I’ve also previously written on the need to ensure better representation for BME communities in the sector.

Digging beyond the top line of these stats we see the gender disparity appears to be exacerbated at primary level where there is a 84%-16% ratio of female:male teachers.  This evens out slightly at secondary level to a 64.6%-35.4% split in favour of female practitioners.

There are undoubtably numerous reason as to why it continues to be difficult to make teaching an attractive career prospect to men.  There may well need to be some research conducted, possibly commissioned to be undertaken by an organisation like WISERD?  Fully understanding why we have failed as a sector to close this gender gap will better equip us to do so in future.  Ignoring the imbalance has evidently done nothing to resolve it.

One further thing that is worth examining is the prevalence of male appointees at leadership level.  Despite making up just over a quarter of the teaching compliment in Wales, males account for 42.2% of head teachers. (621 of the 1,470 to be exact).  Again the representation is significantly different at secondary level (70% male) than at primary (38% male).  The secondary figures are particularly noteworthy.  Men make up just 35.4% of the teaching workforce at that level but a whopping 70% of school leaders.

So why is this happening?  One explanation is the fact that male teachers are in such demand that they are fast-tracked into leadership positions.  Their uniqueness to the post makes them a valued asset in schools and are, potentially, given greater opportunities to progress and take the lead on school priorities as a result.  It could also be that as a minority in schools their work is consciously, or subconsciously, recognised more often.

One other major factor of course is the fact female teachers who start families take career breaks, (not all but most), during maternity periods while their male counterparts continue in post.  There is a big question therefore as to if female teachers are punished in their ability progress their careers due to having children.  That isn’t a unique proposition to the teaching profession of course but given the female dominance in this particular workplace it does perhaps have greater significance.

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