The Week In Education – Nov 24
It may be a coincidence, but it certainly seems apt that this year’s annual Girls’ Schools Association conference was held in the same week as Equal Pay Day.
So as hundreds of the nation’s most capable women (and a number of men*) gathered near Cirencester to champion girls’ education, we learnt that the pay gap between male and female secondary headteachers has grown to its widest in 12 years.
An analysis by unions and WomenEd found that female heads earn on average £3,908 less than their male counterparts in secondary, falling to £2,181 less in primary. All this when there is a national pay framework in state schools.
It isn’t any wonder then that the GSA’s president, Marina Gardiner Legge, used her heartfelt speech to say that girls’ schools were “not a luxury”. They were needed, she said, to turn out a generation of “modern suffragettes” ready to fight for injustices against women and girls.
Indeed, the conference – held in the calm surroundings of the Cotswold De Vere hotel – felt like a meeting of rather polite revolutionaries determined to change the world through education.
And by the way, the president “doesn’t give a stuff” what you wear to the conference dinner. Uplifting words for the self-conscious or sartorially challenged.
Meanwhile, revolution is never far from the air in education, something highlighted by outgoing Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman in her final report this week.
She warned that parents are increasingly willing to challenge school policies, and that the “unwritten agreement” between families and schools has been fractured since the pandemic. Pupil behaviour and attendance was also worse, she wrote.
Thoughtful schools, of course, will be asking themselves why, and what they can do about it. The reasons are far more complex than a few middle class work-from-homers letting their children pull a sickie on a Friday.
A crumb of comfort for the Government will come from the news that the proportion of Year 4 children scoring full marks in its “times tables check” has risen by two percentage points this year. Figures show that 29 per cent of youngsters who sat the tests answered every question correctly.
Schools minister Damian Hinds said this was evidence that “reforms are driving up standards in our schools” and he may partly be right.
But there are areas where the Government has nothing to crow about – the widening gap between disadvantaged students and their better off peers at GCSE and A-level is just one persistant issue.
At the GSA conference, Marina Gardiner Legge stressed that the world’s problems are solved better when there are women involved.
This is almost certainly the case. But would they get paid the same as men to do it?
*This is a joke, the men were capable too