New report shows gender pay gap in schools has worsened over the last decade

New analysis released today by school leaders’ union NAHT, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Governance Association (NGA) and WomenEd, shows that the pay gap between male and female school leaders has worsened over the last decade.
The analysis shows that the difference between male and female headteachers’ average pay across all state-funded nursery and primary schools has increased by nearly £1,000, from an average gap of £1,878 in 2010/11 to £2,834 in 2020/21. In secondary, the gap has also increased over the last ten years, peaking in 2019/20 with an average gap of £2,917. The gap for 2020/21 currently stands at £2,702.

Regardless of school phase or structure, men typically earn more than women. The more senior the position, the wider the gulf becomes. The latest school workforce statistics show that men earnt on average 2.4% more at classroom teacher level, but a staggering 12% more on average than female headteachers.

This difference between the average salaries of men and women increases with age and seniority in roles. At head teacher level, across all types of state-funded school, women tend to have steadier increases in salary by age, whereas men tend to see much larger increases, particularly towards the end of their career. The difference by age 60 and over reaches £17,334.

A similar pattern is seen at ‘other leadership’ levels, although the salary difference is not quite as pronounced. The divergence point is at age 35-39, with the difference between average salaries between men and women almost doubling from £2,760 at 35-39 to £4,024 at age 40-44.

The report identifies several factors that could be contributing to the gap in pay, including the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions, and the fact that women are more likely to manage caring responsibilities in family life with a negative impact on pay and career progression.

Whilst women make up the majority of the education workforce, they remain under-represented in senior leadership positions. In primary, men are present at senior level at a ratio of almost 2:1 of their representation at teaching level – 13% of teaching staff are male, compared to 26% of headteachers. A similar picture emerges in secondary – 34% of classroom teachers are male increasing to 60% for head teachers.

There is also evidence from the Department for Education which suggests that, not only are men overrepresented in senior leadership position, they also reach senior positions faster than women.

There have been substantial changes to the education pay framework, including the removal of mandatory pay points and pay portability and the introduction of performance related pay. Despite numerous calls from the School Teacher’s Review Body for an equality impact assessment considering these significant changes to the pay framework, the Department has thus far failed to undertake this.

The report makes several key recommendations for government to tackle the gender pay gaps identified, including improving national analysis of pay gap trends, providing greater support to mitigate systemic barriers to flexible working, and acting on calls from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) and the sector for a comprehensive review of the pay framework for both classroom teachers and leaders, including consideration of the role that performance-related pay has on the gender pay gap.

Commenting on the findings, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It has been illegal to pay men and women different salaries for the same job for the past 50 years, but the gender pay gap looks at a deeper and more complex injustice by examining how the salaries of men and women compare on average. This report reveals stark differences in education salaries which we simply must do more to address. There are a number of reasons for this issue, one of which is the fact that we still live in a society in which women often take on the bulk of family responsibilities with resulting career breaks and an impact on salaries and progression. We must proactively address this through practical measures such as improving the opportunities for flexible working to make family responsibilities part of a successful career rather than a barrier, for men and women.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “For a profession that has a female majority, these figures should be sobering to anyone that reads them. We’ve seen school leadership pay eroded over the last decade and for our female school leaders there is almost a ‘double hit’ by the inequalities in the system. To make progress, we need to frame the issue in a way that fosters a culture of change at all levels. NAHT hope that, through this report, we can continue a much-needed conversation, helping to empower our members and female leaders everywhere, and use our platform to press for the changes in the system that are sorely needed. As a school leadership union, with a predominately female membership, this is an incredibly important issue for us.

Emma Knights OBE, Chief Executive of the National Governance Association, said: “Governing boards determine the organisation’s pay policy and have a very specific role in setting the pay of the most senior leader. Employers need to ensure themselves that all staff are treated fairly, equitably, and lawfully. We need to encourage and reward all the talent within schools and trusts. It is through developing our staff that we will provide the best possible education for pupils. The National Governance Association is committed to ensuring boards have all the information they need to do this well without a gender penalty. Governing boards are in prime position to effect change by ensuring a healthy organisational culture which is open to giving equalities, diversity, and inclusion active and on-going consideration.

Vivienne Porritt, Co-founder and Global Strategic Leader of WomenEd, said: “In WomenEd we hear of many examples where women are paid less than men for the same role and with the same or greater experience. This report shows that such inequality is more significant than women realise. We want women to realise that they have a right to talk about pay and to challenge any pay inequality. We share research and the evidence from women who are brave and challenge the status quo, who gain higher salaries for themselves and their colleagues so that, collectively, and in collaboration with other sector organisations, we can make a difference for all women leaders and educators.

Download the report here