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Equality, diversity & inclusion

Analysis identifies substantial gender pay gap in school leadership


The pay gap between male and female school leaders has worsened over the last decade new analysis by WomenEd, National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Governance Association (NGA) shows.

Regardless of school phase or structure, men were found to be better paid than women. Men are paid an average of 2.4% more at teacher level, but 12% more at headteacher level. In the limited cases where the average pay gap favours women, the research found that the difference tends to be far smaller.

An analysis of male and female headteachers’ pay across all state-funded schools found that in nursery and primary schools the average pay gap has increased by nearly £1,000 from £1,878 in 2010/11 to £2,834 in 2020/21. In secondary schools, the current average gap is £2,702; that gap peaked in 2019/20 with an average gap of £2,917.

The analysis also found an age-related divergence point: at age 35-39 the difference between average salaries of men and women is £2,760, but rises to £4,024 at age 40-44.

In addition, the report highlights that while women make up most of the education workforce, they remain under-represented in senior leadership positions. In primary, men are more present at senior 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 headteachers.

Governing boards are encouraged to review their school or trust’s recruitment policy and its outcomes to ensure they support equality, diversity and inclusion. The report also recommends that boards ensure there is regular review of the organisation’s pay policy and pay setting procedures in light of any gender pay gap information.

The report calls on the government to tackle the gender pay gaps by acting on recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) and the sector for a comprehensive review of the pay framework for both classroom teachers and leaders.

Emma Knights, chief executive of NGA, 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.”

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”

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”


Read the report

Resources for governing boards: