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Are women being driven from teaching?


Women teachers, flexible working, discrimination, NASUWT, conference 2016Gender inequality threatens future of women in teaching profession.

Over half of women teachers said they feel generally or very pessimistic about their future in the teaching profession and many women teachers who have requested flexible working have had their request denied by their employer, a women’s conference organised by the teachers union NASUWT has heard.

NASUWT, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, organises in all sectors from early years to further education and represents teachers in all roles including heads and deputies.

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

Hundreds of women teachers from across the country gathered in Birmingham recently for NASUWT’s annual Women Teachers’ Consultation Conference to discuss the challenges they face and to attend a series of professional development workshops.

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

Over half (55 per cent) said they feel generally or very pessimistic about their future in the teaching profession;

Two thirds said their mental and physical health is being damaged by their workload;

Three quarters said 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 per cent) said their most important priority in their career right now is to leave teaching;

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

More than a third (36 per cent) said they’ve been treated less favourably at work in the last year because they are a woman.

Remarking on this, Christine Keates, the General Secretary of NASUWT, said: “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.

“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.

“This inequality is being 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.

“All of the evidence shows that the greater the managerial discretion the greater the potential for discrimination and this is borne out by the number of women reporting they have been refused pay progression because they have been on maternity leave or are working part time.

“Excessive workload and attacks on teachers’ working conditions are 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,” she continued.

“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 the government pause for thought about the urgency of the need to create a teaching profession which genuinely values and supports all women teachers.

“It is not overstating the point to say that the future of the teaching profession depends on it.”

In addition, nearly half of women teachers who have requested flexible working have had their request denied by their employer.

A real-time electronic poll on this question found that:

Three quarters of schools did not have a flexible working policy;

Less than one in ten (8.3 per cent) women teachers feel that flexible working requests are encouraged in their schools;

Of those who had made a flexible working request over 45 per cent had had their request declined;

More than half (50.3 per cent) did not believe that colleagues in their school working reduced hours had been given a ‘workable’ timetable;

Over half (52 per cent) said there was an expectation that colleagues working reduced hours would still attend the same number of parents’ evening, INSET training days and staff meetings as full time colleagues;

Nearly a third (30.1 per cent) felt that they or a workplace colleague had been discriminated against by having flexible workplace requests denied;

While over a third (33.3 per cent) also believed that they or a workplace colleague had been discriminated against by being given unworkable timetables.

“The experiences shared by women teachers today, demonstrates that discrimination against and exploitation of women teachers is rife,” Christine Keates said.

“Women are being denied their rights to flexible working. Spurious arguments, feeble excuses and blatant discrimination are being used to turn down requests.

“Even when women are granted flexibility the unfairness and exploitation continues with many teachers still expected to undertake work related activities on days they are not supposed to be working, invariably without payment,” she added.

“These poor exploitative management practices flourish because government fails to secure compliance and has in fact created a climate in which equality and the rights of workers are seen as unimportant.”

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