Education International
Education International

UK: gender inequality puts future of teaching profession at risk

published 18 October 2016 updated 19 October 2016

Gender inequality, combined with crushing workloads and attacks on their pay and working conditions, are threatening to drive women out of the teaching profession in the UK.

Over half of women teachers say they feel generally or very pessimistic about their future in the teaching profession. That was the view of women at the annual Women Teachers’ Consultation Conference, organised by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers(NASUWT), in Birmingham last weekend. NASUWT is one of Education International’s affiliates in the UK.

A real-time electronic poll of attendees at the Conference also found that:

•    Two-thirds say their mental and physical health is being damaged by their workload

•    Three-quarters say they do not have a reasonable work/life balance

•    Pressures of the job and workload are the biggest factor that would impact on their decisions to remain in the profession in five years’ time

•    More than a fifth (21 percent) said their most important priority in their career right now is to leave teaching

•    Over half (52 percent) say they feel angry about what has happened to their pay over the last few years and 55 per cent think the prospects for their pay are likely to worsen

•    More than a third (36 percent) say they have been treated less favourably at work in the last year because they are a woman

Unacceptable barriers

“Women make up the majority of the teaching profession, yet it is clear that too many are still facing unacceptable barriers and inequality in terms of their careers and professionalism,” said Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT. “Women teachers have expressed their deep anger at the way in which they have been treated over recent years and about the successive attacks on their pay, working conditions, and job security.”

She added that the inequality was exacerbated by a raft of Government policies which have undermined equality protections for workers and left teachers at the mercy of unacceptable practices by employers.

Need to value women teachers

Excessive workload and attacks on teachers’ working conditions are also having a profoundly negative effect on women teachers’ mental and physical health and wellbeing and undermining the quality of education for children and young people.

“The number of women saying they feel pessimistic about their future in the profession and the number saying their priority is to leave teaching must give employers and Government pause for thought about the urgency of the need to create a teaching profession which genuinely values and supports all women teachers,” Keates concluded. “It is not overstating the point to say that the future of the teaching profession depends on it.”