The 2022 gender pay gap in education

Education has one of the highest gender pay gaps, with multi-academy trusts being one of the main drivers of this.



Surprisingly for many, education is in the top three of sectors with the highest gender pay gap this year, although it has fallen a few percentage points since  last year.

Last year the education sector had a pay gap of 26%. This year, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, it has a pay gap of 21%, putting it at number three on the list of worst pay gaps after construction and finance and insurance.

Despite being female-dominated at the school level, one of the factors that contribute to the pay gap in schools is the high wage differential between senior leaders in multi-academy trusts compared to the lowest paid. Organisations who have to report their figures have to have at least 250 employees, which means many of the smaller schools which are not part of a trust are excluded.

The Guardian reported in 2019 that almost half of the worst 50 organisations when it comes to gender pay are multi-academy trusts (MATs). The National Education Union has said that the median gap will not go down until the gap between chief executive salaries and teacher and support staff salaries is reduced. Education accounts for 1,298 of the 10,257 employers with over 250 employees who have had to report their gender pay audit figures. The figures were due in on 31st March in the case of the public sector and 4th April in the case of the private sector.

Wimborne Academy Trust in Dorset has a median* hourly pay gap of 55.8% in favour of men [this compared to a 2019/20 figure of 53.4% and a 68% figure in 2018] and women’s mean* hourly pay was 30.8% lower than men’s [up from 29.6% in 2019/20]. In part this is because women occupy 60.3% of the highest paid jobs [64.8% in 2019/20], but 92.2% of the lowest paid jobs. Women dominate at all levels, but the percentage of men in the Trust rises according to seniority ranking. The Trust says: “The mean pay gap and the quartile distribution reflects the fact that, although the Trust’s CEO is female and six of 12 headteachers are female, proportionally more men are in the teaching and leadership roles in Wimborne Academy Trust than in the lower paid support staff roles, when compared to the distribution of women employees. This drives the large reported median pay gap: the median male employee is a teacher while the median female employee is a member of support staff. During 2021/22, the Trust will systematically review our employee lifecycle and then design and implement an evidence-based action plan to reduce the gender pay gap as part of the Trust’s new People Plan, and wider work on equality in the Trust.” The project will be monitored by the newly established Staffing and Remuneration Committee of the Trust Board.

Another trust, the RMET in Kent, has a median hourly pay gap for women of 61%  [up from 58% from its last report, but less that its 66% gap in 2018] and their mean hourly pay is 41% lower than men’s – the same as in its last report. Women occupy 52.5% of the highest paid jobs [up from 47.6% last time] and 91.7% of the lowest paid jobs [down from 93.5% last time]. The accompanying report states: “RMET employs more female (79%) full pay relevant employees than male (21%). This is representative of the types of jobs within the Trust and is reflected in the lower quartile sectors where there are lower paid and part-time roles, in which primarily women are employed. The Trust is confident that the reported Gender Pay Gap does not result from paying men and women differently for the same or equivalent work and is committed to providing a fair working environment.” There is no action plan for changing this.

In other trusts, there is more emphasis on action. At the Academy Transformation Trust in Sutton Coldfield, women’s median hourly pay is 33% lower than men’s [up from 25.6% last year] and their mean hourly pay is 22% lower than men’s [up from 15.5%  last year]. Women occupy 50% of the highest paid jobs [down from 67.5% last year], but 87% of the lowest paid jobs [up from  82% last year]. It says the rise in the pay gap this year is due to an increase of women in the lower quartile numbers and a lowering in the upper quartile. It adds that with a high proportion of female workers, a small unbiased change in the gender make-up of senior roles “can have a significant impact on the reported gap”. It adds: “For societal reasons it remains the case that more women than men are employed in our lower paid roles, such as lunchtime supervisors, and for this reason the mean gender pay gap is more marked in the support staff group than in the teaching staff group.”

Its action plan outlines the launch of a diversity, equity and inclusion survey to understand employees’ experiences in relation to their protected characteristics, including gender. This survey will result in action plans being formulated to address any areas identified for improvement. The Trust will continue to offer training to develop skills and awareness such as unconscious bias in recruitment and selection processes. All employees will have access to learning and development opportunities and the Trust will develop a revised pay policy which includes reviewing the way in which it determine salaries for posts. It will also include its salary bands on job advertisements to ensure transparency regarding pay, including at Principal level, to prevent gender directly/indirectly impacting salaries on appointment. Furthermore, it will analyse pay data to identify areas of imbalance and then implement an action plan for improvements.

At the Blessed Holy Family Academy Trust in Harrow women’s median hourly pay is 34.3% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 18.6% lower than men’s [up from 14.1% last year]. Women occupy 90.2% of the highest paid jobs and 92.4% of the lowest paid jobs, similar to last year. The Trust’s action plan does not really include any actions except to continue monitoring pay and to state that it does not believe women are paid less for equivalent work than men. It states: “The Trust is confident that its gender pay gap does not stem from paying men and women differently for the same or equivalent work. Rather its gender pay gap is the result of the roles in which men and women work within the Trust and the salaries that these roles attract. The Trust operates within both the public sector, and specifically education, where it is common for a high proportion of the workforce to be female.”

At the Ambitions Academies Trust, women’s median hourly pay is 26.9% lower than men’s [down from 44.2%  last year] and their mean hourly pay is 18.8% lower than men’s [down from 23.1% last year]. Yet women occupy 63.6% of the highest paid jobs [down from 85.2% last year] and 84.2% of the lowest paid jobs [up from 65.4% last year]. There is no analysis or action plan included.

Further education and higher education

The gender pay gap figures seem better in many cases in further and higher education. For instance, at Harlow College women’s median hourly pay is 11% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 4.1% lower than men’s [down from 6.3% last year]. Women occupy 46% of the highest paid jobs [up from 43%  last year] and 70% of the lowest paid jobs [down from 76% last year]. The number of females employed by the College has increased by three to 288 and the number of males employed has also increased by nine to 174. The college says this is typical of many Further Education colleges.

The College says it has achieved an improvement in the mean gender pay gap in Delivery Support posts, Middle Managers in both delivery and support areas, Business Support posts and in the Executive and Head of Academy groups both in delivery and support areas. This has largely been achieved through internal progression amongst female staff, it says. It has also removed the two bottom salary points on the College pay scales where female staff dominated in roles such as Catering and Cleaning staff. There has also been a small number of male staff recruited externally in categories such as Apprentices, Invigilators and Campus Operation roles.

Its action plan outlines hybrid working, health, wellbeing and family friendly policies and work on equal pay and diversity. Meanwhile, at Oxford University women’s median hourly pay is 11.1% lower than men’s [down from 13.7% last year] and women’s mean hourly pay is 18.1% lower than men’s [down from 20.1% last year]. Women occupy 40.4% of the highest paid jobs and 64.6% of the lowest paid jobs [up from 63.2%  last year]. Women’s median bonus pay is the same as men, but women’s mean bonus pay is 65.6% lower than men’s. It says the pay gap is due to more women being in lower paid jobs. 

The University introduced the Oxford Living Wage in August 2020 which increased the pay for all staff in the three lowest grades on the pay structure. There were 58% women and 42% men in these grades and with slightly more women on the lower points in these grades the increase in pay for women was greater than for men.

It says there also appears to have been incremental movement within grades which has contributed to the reduction in the median pay gap. This is most notable in the most highly populated middle grades. Women’s pay in these grades has increased by 3% over the reporting year; in comparison men’s has increased by 0.6% and 0.7% respectively.  Pay gaps also arise from differences in the distribution of additional pay elements for professional roles such as NHS clinical excellence awards. The University is conducting further analysis to establish what targeted actions are required to address the gaps identified.

Its action plan covers recruitment efforts at associate professor level and new targets to increase the proportion of female Statutory Professors, with 27% representation by 2029. It also plans to achieve a yearly increase in the proportion of female Associate Professors, with 35% representation by 2029 and aims for representation of women on Council and its main committees to be in the range of 40-60%. Progress towards its targets is reported annually in the University’s Equality Report.

At Exeter university women’s median hourly pay is 21.7% lower than men’s [up on 20%  last year] and their mean hourly pay is 18.6% lower than men’s [down on  21.2% last year]. Women occupy 44% of the highest paid jobs and 67% of the lowest paid jobs.

Actions it has taken to date to address its gender pay gap include creating a new role within the HR recruitment team to investigate its recruitment practices, the extension of emergency leave in recognition of sustained pressures on parents, guardians and carers, the reinstatement of staff salary increments, which were temporarily suspended at the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year in response to the financial impact of the pandemic, the reinstatement of the Above and Beyond Recognition scheme and the application of a lens of parity and equity when assessing cases for promotion and progression.

It states: “Following a programme of work to identify and mitigate the effects of the pandemic on gender equality throughout 2020 and 2021, we are now rapidly evaluating the impact of this work and developing further actions. Our analysis will inform the revision of our Silver Athena Swan gender equality action plan, which provides the framework for all our gender equality activity and initiatives. We are also engaging with knowledge, research and expertise from our academic community to inform and develop further actions, to meet our commitment to maintain a reduction in the difference between male and female average pay going forwards.”

Future plans include a programme of work to investigate gender inequalities affecting adhoc/claims worker population, given over two-thirds of this population are women and the majority in Grades B and E, an evaluation of the impact of the Adjusting for the Differential Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic policies for both Academic and Professional Services staff on progression, supporting gender pay gap research proposals from the Business School, conducting further research into starting salaries and exceptional pay enhancements and scrutinising progress through the university’s new Wellbeing, Inclusion and Culture Committee.

*NB The mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean – average – hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage. The gender pay gap includes a figure for mean hourly pay and for median hourly pay. The median gender pay gap is the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).

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