How to Close the Gender Pay Gap in Education

30th July 2018

Gender pay gap in education

The gender pay gap reports made for sobering reading across all industries. The report on gender pay gap in teaching, however, simply shone a spotlight on a situation that many teaching staff had already known for years.

By now you should be familiar with the gender pay gap and the fall out of the reports revealed in April 2018. Thanks to the gender pay gap reports in the education sector, as well as independent surveys conducted by NUT, we know the size of that gap.

The average pay for all women teachers in all state funded schools including academies is £2,900 less than for their male counterparts every year. Women earn £37,700, compared to the average male teacher’s salary of £40,660 a year.

How to fix the gender pay gap in the education sector

Education employers, of both state-run and academy institutions, must take steps to stop and reverse the gender pay gap. They must ensure that women have fair access to pay progression and promotion. This can be achieved by:

  • Ensuring that recruitment panellists have equality training
  • Making sure gender bias plays no part in pay progression and promotion decisions
  • Being open to flexible working and job sharing in schools, including for promoted posts
  • They must end discrimination in pay decisions, such as refusing pay progression to teachers who have been on maternity leave
  • Monitoring and regulating pay decisions, particularly at academy CEO and headship levels

These are fundamental changes that require education, training and oversight in order to create a change in the way educators think about gender inequality. But how have we gotten here in the first place?

How did the gender pay gap in education get so bad?

Male teachers are more likely to be promoted within education, especially to headships. This is one of the driving forces behind the gender pay gap.

In all state funded primary and nursery schools, only 14% of all teachers are men, but make up 27% of all head teachers. In secondary schools the situation is the same. Men make up only 36% of the teaching staff, yet make up 62% of head teachers. In addition to driving a wedge into the pay gap, this means that there are fewer female voices leading the way in education.

But, women who make it to headmaster stand on the edge of one of the biggest gender pay gaps across all sectors. On average, female head teachers in state funded schools earn £5,700 less than their male counterparts.

While some of this can be apportioned to the higher number of better paid, male head teachers, there is nevertheless a gender pay gap of almost £3,000 for heads across all levels of schooling.

At the classroom level, the gender pay gap is much lower… but still present. Female classroom teachers in state funded schools earn £900 less on average per year. On the plus side, they earn slightly more on average in primary schools than their male counterparts.

The data also makes it clear that women make up the overwhelming majority of the lowest-paid support staff for almost every education employer. Catering, cleaning and other support roles are frequently taken up by women, which adds to the overall gender pay gap in the teaching sector.

Across the whole spectrum of job roles, from top to bottom, the structure of the education system is weighted against women. This results in an overall picture that discriminates against female pay.

An end to discrimination in pay

A 2017 survey on pay progression among NEU members found that a third of teachers eligible for progression were denied. This was because they had been absent for all or part of the 2016-17 school year due of pregnancy or maternity leave.

This was almost twice the rate of female teachers denied progression overall. More than half of such teachers revealed that they had been specifically told that the reason they had been denied progression was because of maternity absence. This isn’t just bad policy, it’s illegal discrimination.

The obligation on employers in education now is to review their structures, their systems and their cultures. Employers must remove gender bias, work harder to retain talented teaching professionals and demonstrate to women in the sector that they are valued.

The state of the education sector is that of a pyramid, with low paid women at the bottom, supporting a small number of male CEOs and head teachers. This is the model that needs to be changed.

While the gender pay gap in teaching isn’t going to disappear overnight, hopefully education institutions address this disparity and next year’s gender pay report, at least, be showing signs of recovering.


Establishing new processes and policies to ensure gender equality is key to bridging the pay gap. To help your staff have ready access to your business policy changes, training secludes and performance management IRIS FMP Amity is here to help. Find out more about the HR software that puts the power into your employees' hands.

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