Gender pay gap widening for school leaders

New analysis has revealed little progress in tackling the gender pay gap in education.

The analysis released by school leaders’ union NAHT, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Governance Association (NGA) and WomenEd, uses the latest School Workforce statistics to update the findings from the joint “Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Education” report released last year.
The analysis reveals that the issue remains particularly acute for the most senior roles in the system.
While the gap for primary headteachers has narrowed slightly (dropping from £2,834 in 2020/21 to £2,221), the gap for secondary school leaders has leapt by over 37% in the last year – rising to a huge £3,698.
This trend is also reflected for ‘other leadership roles’ (e.g., deputy and assistant heads), where the gap is up to £1,502 across all state-funded secondary schools.
In 2021/22, the difference in average salaries for head teachers aged 60 and over remains large, with men earning on average £18,296 more than women of the same age. This is a 5% increase in the difference from £17,334 last year.
The divergence point remains at age 35-39 for headteachers, with the difference between average salaries between men and women more than doubling from £3,721 at 35-39 to £7,685 at age 40-44.
The joint report made several key recommendations for government to tackle the 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.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School leaders’ pay has been significantly eroded over the last decade and for female school leaders there is a ‘double hit’ caused by continued inequalities in the system. And we know that the pay gap may be even worse for women of colour or those with disabilities – unfortunately we still don’t have national data needed to track this. This is an area that the government needs to do a lot more to fix.”
Vivienne Porritt, Global Strategic Leader of WomenEd, said: “The increase in the gender pay gap this year hits women leaders in education very hard and signals to them that teaching is not an equitable profession. We call on the government and the whole schools sector to take this issue seriously and draw on the ways forward suggested in our report last year. Our young people can’t afford to lose more teachers.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is clear that much more work needs to be done to tackle the gender pay gap. Last year’s report revealed significant disparities and the fact that many of these have increased is a concern. We all have a role to play in tackling inequality within the education system, and must work together to foster an environment where everyone has the same opportunities to progress.”
Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, said: “Governing boards determine the organisation’s pay policy and have a specific role in setting the pay of the most senior leader. Employers need to ensure that all staff are treated fairly, equitably, and lawfully and NGA is committed to ensuring all boards have the information to do this well without a gender penalty. Boards are in prime position to effect change by ensuring a healthy organisational culture which is open to giving active, on-consideration to equalities, diversity, and inclusion.”