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?
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.