June 2018

The know zone

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  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Unfair shares
    Education has some of the worst instances of a gender pay gap - particularly among leaders - but the picture is less clear-cut than the figures suggest. Sara Ford unpicks the reasons. More
  • Setting the standard
    Kevin Gilmartin takes a look at the new apprenticeship standards and the newly formed body responsible for their development. More
  • Be prepared
    2018 is the most significant year of GCSE reform, with 17 new GCSEs being awarded for the first time. Suzanne O'Farrell looks at lessons learned from 2017 and answers key questions about this year's reforms. More
  • Pension myth
    Stephen Casey seeks to clarify a common misunderstanding by members about the teachers' pensions final salary scheme and the career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme. More
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Education has some of the worst instances of a gender pay gap – particularly among leaders – but the picture is less clear-cut than the figures suggest. Sara Ford unpicks the reasons.

Unfair shares

Since April 2017, employers with 250 employees or more have been required to publish their gender pay gap data annually. As they have 12 months to submit the returns, the first complete set of data has just become available. But how useful is it and what has it told us?

The first thing we have learnt is that very few employers have a gender pay gap in favour of women. The overwhelming majority have an often significant gap and the UK average is 18%. And when you look at the education figures it appears to be even worse: some of the worst pay gaps being reported are in this sector.

It appears, then, that women working in education are paid less than their male counterparts. But is that the whole story?

We heard time and again in the accompanying reports that the reason for the pay gap being reported was down to the large number of female staff working in support functions in schools. So the first question to ask is: is this a fair ‘defence’?

It is true that for those schools, colleges and trusts that directly employ their own cleaners and catering staff, the majority of whom are usually female, the overall workforce is going to be skewed by a large percentage of female staff in the lower quartile. The situation as far as gender pay gap reporting is concerned will be further worsened as the salaries for these roles are often close to the living wage and significantly lower than the majority of the rest of the workforce.

Like with like?

Employers who outsource their cleaning and catering functions should have seen a lower gender pay gap return, because that part of their workforce isn’t recorded in their figures – although it is difficult to analyse this as the data requested as part of this exercise is limited. I am not advocating outsourcing these functions in order to address your gender pay gap as that would be perverse. But it is important that, as part of the accompanying report, employers try to unpick the reasons behind the gap and don’t just rely on the fact that, traditionally, schools have lots of lower paid female support staff. In fact, the differences in the pay gaps were significant between similar employers and this is one of the real problems with the exercise as it was conducted: knowing when we are comparing like with like.

For those employers whose teaching staff are subject to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) there was immediately an issue when it came to calculating the hourly rate. The STPCD sets teachers’ working hours at 1,265, and it would have been that figure that employers used to divide down a teacher’s salary in order to calculate the hourly rate. Of course, we all know that they work far more than that, but that is the contracted time. However, a member of the support staff, whose working week is 37.5 hours and who gets six weeks’ holiday a year, will have seen their annual salary divided by 1,725.

Some employers took the opportunity afforded in the accompanying report to do separate returns for their support and teaching staff. This gave a much clearer picture of whether or not there was a real pay gap or whether the reported gap was a result of not comparing like with like. This approach also allowed for a more targeted plan to address any genuine pay gaps, and I would recommend it to others for future years.

It is also worth noting that, overall, the gender pay gap in independent schools was lower than in state-funded schools, and this may be due to a less widespread use of 1,265 as the contracted hours for teachers.

So, the return as it was requested was crude but it is a good conversation starter. We should be under no illusions that there is pay disparity in the system and it is in no way all down to the inclusion of support staff in the returns.

The DfE’s school workforce statistics, based on teachers working in publicly funded schools in England, show that the average salary for a male teacher (both leadership and classroom) is 3.7% higher than their female counterpart. That’s bad enough. But when you separate out the leadership group, the pay differential rises to 9.2%.

Employers really need to understand what their data is telling them, and triangulate this with their pay progression data and pay setting procedures. It really is time we got to grips with this.

Sara Ford
ASCL Pay, Conditions and Employment Specialist