Investigating the gender imbalance in the teaching profession.

Remarks to SSTA Congress in moving the following motion:

Congress, in noting the current gender imbalance within the teacher profession, calls upon the Scottish Government, together with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, to commission such research as is necessary to investigate and identify the causal factors of this research, and to recommend specific steps that might be taken so that the gap might be reduced.

Over my teaching career we have seen a significant change in the gender makeup of the teacher workforce.


When I was at Jordanhill in 1996, the secondary teacher workforce reflected the gender make up of Scottish society – 49% male. 51% female.
Since then, the proportion of male teachers has seen a steady decline with the census in 2012 showing the gender split as 38% male and 62% female.
SSTA membership reflects this too with current membership data showing that the gender split is 36% male and 64% female.
If we add in the figures for primary teachers the picture is even more stark –
in 2012 the overall proportion of teachers who were male was only 23% 
8% in primary and 4 per cent in the pre-school sector.
However, simply looking at the overall figures for men and women, masks important variation between subjects:
In 2006 over 95% of Home Economics teachers were female and almost 90% of Technical Education teachers were male and whilst the proportion of female Technical teachers by 2012 had almost doubled to 19% the number of male Home Economics teachers had halved to 2.5 %
In my own subject modern studies where in 2006 there was virtual gender parity – women now make up 57%.
Some of these changes can partially be accounted for through the retirement of older teachers a majority of whom were men – at the same time as in increasing proportion of new entrants to the profession were younger women.  
Why is this a potential issue anyway? 
Congress, it is my view that a heavily gendered teaching profession potentially forms a barrier to achieving gender equality.
Wether it is in the case of visible role models or the more hidden messages received by pupils.
But, the focus of the motion is not to get bogged down in the potential effects of these trends it is to seek to establish the causes of them.
There are myriad potential factors playing out that research has thrown up:
Differing views that men and women have about the job of a teacher, the conditions attached or the pay and prospects.
Males may be less likely to have voluntary teaching experience and this could impact on their chances of admission to teacher training;
Some suggest that teaching – even in the secondary sector is increasingly being seen as a caring role as the care and welfare expectations of staff increase.
These are before we even consider the negative press that all-too-often our profession receives from the media.
Congress, recent events may make the gender gap accelerate.
Hardly a week goes by it seems without a previously popular male light entertainment figure being arrested, charged, jailed or bailed
for alleged sexual offences against children and young people.
Indeed I know of some small-scale research carried out in New Zealand amongst male pre-school teachers that found that firstly, there were only 4 in the town and secondly all had at some point in their careers had faced accusations of inappropriate touching of children in their care.
The challenge in restoring a more representative balance in the make up of the profession may be in the process of becoming even harder.
Recently a study from Strathclyde University into the experience of male teachers in primary schools was reported in TESS as finding: 
“…a gender divide in primary teaching: explicitly and implicitly, men and women are often expected to perform different roles and bring different qualities to the job.”
The question for us, is wether or not we as secondary teachers perpetuate a similar gender divide.
The same TESS report notes that this research echoes GTCS commissioned research from 2005
This analysed the extent to which the teaching profession was drawn from and mirrored the whole community that it serves.
This research found significant differences between the composition of the profession and the people of Scotland in relation not only to gender but also social class, ethnicity, disability and sexuality amongst others.
The report called for a number of actions to be taken including taking into account the  ‘total gender regime of schools and teacher education institutions.’ avoiding over-simplification of the issue and developing strong anti-bias education and non-discriminatory practice. 
But what happened?
Not much.
The situation was raised in late 2010 in ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future by Donaldson who noted the gender imbalance but only said that along with wider challenges of recruitment: “Future policies need to address these challenges.”
However, in the National Partnership Group response to Donaldson the word gender is not not even mentioned, far less the challenge being addressed.
The Scottish Government and GTCS should go back to that 2005 research and re-examine the issue as things stand now.
Congress, I believe it’s time to attempt to get to the heart of the gender imbalance in our profession in order to establish genuine not perceived causal factors.
Only then can we move beyond stereotypes, and seek to ensure that our profession reflects our society and that gender equality is a possibility.

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A GLOW that can command the respect and support of teachers.

Remarks in moving the following motion successfully at SSTA Congress:

Congress notes the report from the ICT in Education Group set up by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and its recommendations regarding the future of GLOW and related ICT issues in schools.  Congress notes the failure of GLOW to achieve its potential and the resultant frustration for many teachers and pupils.
Congress calls upon the Cabinet Secretary to commission a successor to GLOW that can command the respect and, support of all Scotland’s teachers.

At Congress last year I argued that within the wider context of ICT in schools that:

“Unless and until schools can have IT ‘solutions’ that allow staff and pupils to immerse themselves in the task they are seeking to perform rather than… in the frustration of hardware and software…we will never see a genuine IT revolution.
It never fails to amaze me that the people who seem to dictate IT – are people who simply do not understand it.”
GLOW was conceived in and designed for a previous era in IT – where top down decision making trumped end-user experience.
It’s easy and understandable to take pot-shots at GLOW but GLOW’s failure was neither technological, nor software related but a failure of project management, implementation and communication.
As such it shares much of the same misfortune as CFE.
Following the withdrawal from Google from the tendering process for GLOW’s renewal, the Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell announced not only that the current GLOW contract would be extended until the end of this year but also that a group would be brought together to consider GLOW’s long term user-centred future.
Unlike nearly every such panel that relates to education or schools, a significant proportion of the group would be made up of – wait for it – practicing teachers! With the involvement of two pupils also facilitated.
The Group, was led by the Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Muffy Calder. It spent 5 months visiting schools across Scotland to look at the experience of using ICT for learning.
The report – published in January of this year, made a wide number of recommendations ranging from how the system is set up and supported, how it looks on screen to how it actually works.
Now the fundamental questions that any future GLOW must answer are simple:
Firstly, why use it?
Why put the effort in to change our teaching practice to incorporate the tools that GLOW offers?
How can it ensure that learning and teaching are the better because of it?
How can we ensure quality of and equality in access to GLOW – when 32 local authorities with disparate policies, priorities and resources have to lead the way?
An example of this is the issue of web filtering.
32 different filters meaning what is available to some is blocked to others.
At one point this year my school’s own website was blocked by the council filter.
The reason given was that I might be exposed to dangerous content!
Maybe the staff photo?
On this, the ICT Excellence group report suggests a simple solution – national filtering, linked to your GLOW account and avoiding stupid blocks put in place by non-educators.
At the heart of the new GLOW is in the words of Jaye Richards Hill, one of the ICT Excellence Group members:
“A secure authentication service providing access to different levels of tools and services. 
Some are core, like productivity tools and some national provided content. Others are integrated and supported by authentication.
There’s room for users to bring in their own tools and services in to one learning space. It’s responsive and user driven.
“Leveraging social network elements to share activity turns the online Glow into a thriving community, with a strong emphasis on sharing and communication between all users. 
Asking questions, discussing class work, with peers and teachers via the platform will really build a community for anytime anyplace learning.”
She refers to GLOW – as a potential school in the cloud.
That’s the vision – we need to now turn this vision into a reality.
Part of that will require better project management and leadership from the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.
It requires the direction of travel to be set by teachers rather than civil servants or corporate interests.
It also requires pressure from us – the end users.
We need to regard a digital learning environment as a right for ourselves and our pupils.
The ambition of GLOW will fail – if we are still stuck with internet connections slower than carrier pigeons, or computers that you seem to have to shovel coal into the back of to make them work.
On that note – I hope that GLOW isn’t one of Alex Salmond’s ‘shovel-ready’ capital projects.
Congress, the SSTA should support the ongoing efforts to take GLOW from its past failures to future success.
We should be vigilant to ensure that we do not have a successor to GLOW that commands the frustration and criticism of the profession – rather than its respect and support.