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Gender pay gap for secondary heads widest for a decade, warn education organisations, on Equal Pay Day

Today (Weds 22 Nov), education organisations NAHT, ASCL, NGA and WomenEd release their annual analysis of the gender pay gap in education.

This comes as the nation marks Equal Pay Day on Weds 22 Nov – the day in the year where women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men.

The analysis shows that the pay gap between female and male secondary head teachers is the largest in 12 years, with women this year earning £3,908 less on average than their male counterparts.

The gap for primary heads has continued to narrow but still stands at £2,181 less for women, on average.

This is despite the existence of a 'national pay framework'.

The gender pay gap begins to increase from age 35-39, with the difference in average salaries more than doubling by the next age group (40-44), from £3,596 to £7,819. This year, the difference by age 60 and over for heads reached an average £15,961.

The education organisations have made a series of recommendations to the government to help tackle the gender pay gap in education:

  • To review the equality implications of the current pay system, including the immediate removal of performance-related pay. 
  • To renew or replace the EDI Hub funding, discontinued by the government in 2020. 
  • To provide greater support to help mitigate the systemic barriers to flexible working for all roles, including encouraging better sharing of caring responsibilities, e.g. paternal leave.
  • And to improve their data monitoring to allow monitoring of other pay gaps, for example ethnicity or disability.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Education is a profession with a female majority – it is wrong to see these pay gaps, especially for those who are the most senior. School leaders’ pay has been significantly eroded over the last decade and for female school leaders there is a further ‘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 the national data needed to track this. To make progress, we need the government to put far more focus on making the changes needed to support equality for all educators.”

Vivienne Porritt, Global Strategic Leader of WomenEd, said: “The Gender Pay Gap is one of WomenEd’s campaigns and we need schools and Trusts to work carefully on ways to reduce their gaps so women educators and especially leaders are treated equitably. Our website (womened.com) has helpful strategies to address the gap and we can support their implementation.”

Margaret Mulholland, SEND and Inclusion Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Closing the gender pay gap is vital to improving social equity and this is particularly important in education where we need to be a beacon of good practice, shifting attitudes and inspiring children and young people towards a fairer society. Teaching and senior leadership must be compatible with family life – for women and men – if we are ever going to break the cycle of gender inequality. We cannot wait for society to change, we must be the change.”

Emma Knights, co-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.”

First published 22 November 2023