Statistics over recent years reveal a troubling lack of diversity within the teaching profession, laying bare the glass ceiling in education. QA Education reported that while “two thirds of the teaching profession are women”, “only one third reach a level of leadership” with far more male headteachers than female. With such a high number of women employed as teachers, why are only low numbers of them pushing through to senior roles?
And it’s not just women. Black, Asian and those of ethnic minorities (BAME) are similarly under-represented in senior leadership roles. There have been numerous reports in the past on the lack of BME leadership. The Guardian, for example, have reported that “only 6.7% of teachers are from an ethnic minority group compared to 12.8% of the population as a whole. And the number of head teachers who are BME is even lower- just 2.4%.”
The Bigger Picture
Upon further research, it transpires that the problem is even wider spread than school senior leadership but has, in fact, seeped out in to all aspects of education management further afield than the school building. Tes reported this year that Ofsted and Ofqual boards display an even worse lack of racial diversity than the schools they inspect. To add to this, their findings also found that “senior leaders at Russell Group universities are 97.6% white.”
So why is senior leadership so lacking in diversity? While education establishments are not outwardly sexist or racist, it would seem that there are subtle biases at play within the recruitment process. This is touched on in the Guardian article mentioned earlier with deputy head Brenda Neburagho’s experiences that left her feeling marginal alongside her SLT colleagues.
QA Education’s article argues that “when you actually look deeper and analyse the issue, it’s not about recruitment, the problem is retention. Teachers, especially women, are leaving the profession as they are not being offered the potential to move in to leadership roles or be on a senior leadership team as part-time members of staff. All other industries and professions offer mothers returning to work hours that suit them; teaching has to be the only one where this is not considered.” Although there are a number of reasons for the problems in retention of teachers, this is an intriguing perspective on why women in particular are leaving the profession. But how can we improve overall diversity in recruitment of senior leaders and education management?
In a similar scenario, the BBC were recently criticised for their lack of class diversity after a survey found that the numbers of BBC staff and BBC management team members that went to private school was significantly above the national average. To counteract this diversity issue, the BBC have now set targets regarding the socioeconomic background of its employees. To make their recruitment process fairer in terms of balancing inequality, the BBC have proposed making drastic changes to their recruitment process. Now they will remove university degree and school education information from the CVs of potential applicants to ensure that unconscious biases do not influence employer decision making.
Could the BBC’s approach to counteracting lack of diversity be a solution to the education sector’s diversity issue in regard to senior leadership through unbiased hiring? They certainly wouldn’t be the first to recruit in this way, with many private sector companies adopting this approach, including Deloitte and HSBC. If employers were not informed of candidate’s gender or information denoting cultural or ethnic background, we could potentially move towards more diverse leadership in education and make the first steps towards an optimistic change in education management.
Having a more diverse range of people in positions of management, and indeed every level of education, could bring about real positive change in the sector as a whole.
RealiseMe aims to focus on positive, practical solutions within education. That’s why we are exploring ways of integrating in to our system new ways to tackle diversity issues in school recruitment through anonymised candidate profiles and AI behaviour job matching. Sign up today or contact [email protected] for more info.