The number of male secondary school teachers in England has fallen to its lowest proportion on record, according to new research that also highlights an alarming lack of senior teaching staff from ethnic minorities.
An erosion in teachers’ pay has had “serious implications” for the recruitment and retention of staff, as well as the overall composition of the profession. The study found that men now make up just 35% of secondary school teachers.
There were also revelations about the lack of minority ethnic teachers in senior posts in both secondary and primary schools. Almost nine in 10 English state-funded schools (87.8%) do not have a minority ethnic teacher in their senior leadership team.
The figures come from an early analysis of data by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, which is examining the pay and conditions of teaching. It found that teachers’ wages have fallen by more than 9% in real terms over the past decade, with recent evidence suggesting that three in 10 classroom teachers would be financially better off if they left the profession.
Researchers suggested that men may have tended to be more mobile in the workforce and more responsive to wage levels, meaning the erosion of wages has caused a fall in the proportion of male teachers in secondary schools. The decline in the numbers has been driven by the most experienced teachers leaving.
The ISER found that while the number of teachers from a minority ethnic background is increasing each year, the pace of the increase is slow. About 60% of state-funded schools do not have a single minority ethnic classroom teacher.
The issue is particularly acute in the north-east and south-west, where 81% and 80% of schools respectively do not have any minority ethnic teachers.
Joshua Fullard, one of the authors of the study, described the underrepresentation of people from ethnic minorities as the “most striking and unexpected” element of the research.
“The pool of potential teachers – typically university graduates – is increasingly more diverse, so we’d expect more ethnic minority teachers,” he said. “But we don’t really observe that. The causes are hard to identify. The fact that teaching isn’t particularly attractive won’t be helping. Representation may also be an issue. If the workforce is predominantly white and female, people may think, ‘There aren’t people with my background in this profession’.”
Fullard called for teaching to be made more attractive by increasing pay and removing tuition fees for university-led teacher training routes.
The ISER study also contained a plea for official research to be commissioned examining the potential barriers preventing minority ethnic groups from entering teaching or progressing to senior leadership roles in schools.
Problems of recruitment and retention are persistent in England. More than 30,000 classroom teachers leave the profession each year, while fewer people sign up for teacher training programs than are needed to replace them.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, the biggest secondary school headteachers’ union, said the uplifting work that teachers did was being overlooked because of falling salaries and added pressures.
“It is hard to pinpoint why fewer men might be joining the profession and why more people from minority ethnic backgrounds are not doing so,” he said. “However, it would certainly help a great deal if more was done to make teaching an attractive career to people of all backgrounds – by improving salaries, ensuring schools and colleges are properly funded, and ratcheting down the pressure on them.
“The government is planning to improve starting salaries to £30,000 but it is simultaneously proposing to give below-inflation pay awards to more senior staff, which will make retention more difficult and potentially exacerbate teacher shortages.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, pointed out that one in seven teachers gave up within a year. “I think we’ve got to the point now where you have to really, really want to be a teacher and nothing else in order to train,” she said. “Most other professions aren’t like that. As for ethnic minority teachers, the education system is not divorced from the rest of society. When you talk to black teachers, they say there is stereotyping going on. For example, they’re put in charge of behavior, but not of literacy. Their voices aren’t properly heard in the school.”
The Department for Education said: “The teaching workforce is becoming more diverse – with the latest data showing 9.3% of teachers reported being from an ethnic minority background, while 21% of postgraduate teacher trainees reported the same. This is compared with 14% of people in the general population, but we know there is further to go.
“We have put in place inclusive recruitment campaigns, tax-free bursaries and scholarships to encourage talented trainees from all backgrounds to teach key subjects, and removed barriers to initial teacher training to encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds. Our 500,000 training programs for teachers at all levels of the profession will also help retain and develop the best teachers, regardless of their background.”