In the real world you probably don’t come across a normal distribution curve as often as you do in the textbooks. As a result, it is interesting when one pops up during the analysis of a dataset. In this case the dataset is of the number of male teachers in each secondary school in England as recorded in the DfE’s 2012 School Workforce Census. Sadly, it is not really possible to do the same analysis for the primary sector because a very large number of schools either have the data shown as not available or it has been suppressed. Quite why it is necessary to suppress data in this category is a bit of a mystery, but that is government statistics for you.
The modal class for schools is between 40-41% of male teachers, with most secondary schools falling somewhere in the range of 20-70% of their teaching staff being men.
It would be interesting to compare this graph with that of ten or twenty years ago if the data was available; sadly, it probably isn’t or at least not in an easily obtainable format. However we can say that male teachers in the secondary sector accounted for around 75,000 of the 181,000 full-time teachers in the secondary sector in 2012 compared with 119,000 out of 220,000 in 1985. This is reduction from 54% of the teaching force to 41% in just under thirty years.
In a few years time it is likely that six out of ten secondary teachers will be women; and the percentage teaching lower secondary pupils is likely to become even higher as the remaining men take a disproportionate number of the senior posts in schools. Whether secondary education will eventually end up like primary schools, an essentially feminised workforce is too early to predict, but in London and the Home Counties, where demand for graduates across the labour market is at its greatest, it seems likely that unless wage rates remain competitive men will vanish for many secondary schools.
Whether this is an important issue or just a matter of note probably depends upon your position. I first identified the trend towards more women in secondary schools in 1995, nearly twenty years ago (The Guardian 13th January 1995), and also at that point raised the question of where would be male role models for the increasing number of boys in single parent families? That debate hasn’t gone away, although it is much more recognised as a fact of life than it was then, and professionals from all walks of life are probably more aware of the possible issues it can raise.
That’s after all one of the reasons for monitoring data. The fact that earlier today Ofsted reported that many secondary schools didn’t seem to be aware of the evidence that some pupils who leave primary school with top grades weren’t making the expected progress at secondary school just highlights how important using management information can be in schools, even if you don’t come across a normal distribution curve as often as you might expect.