The number of male teachers in secondary education in England has fallen to its lowest rate on record, new research shows that also points to an alarming lack of senior education staff from ethnic minorities.
An erosion of teachers’ pay has had “serious consequences” on staff recruitment and retention, as well as on the overall makeup of the profession. The survey found that men now make up only 35% of secondary school teachers.
There were also revelations about the lack of ethnic minority teachers in senior positions in both secondary and primary schools. Nearly nine in ten publicly funded English schools (87.8%) do not have an ethnic minority teacher on 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 examines pay and conditions of education. It found that teachers’ wages have fallen by more than 9% in real terms over the past decade, and recent evidence suggests that three in ten classroom teachers would be better off financially if they left the profession.
Researchers suggested that men were generally more mobile in the labor market and more responsive to wage levels, meaning wage erosion has led to a decline in the proportion of male teachers in high schools. The decrease in the number is caused by the departure of the most experienced teachers.
The ISER found that while the number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds is increasing every year, the rate of increase is slow. About 60% of state-funded schools do not have a single ethnic minority teacher.
The problem is particularly acute in the Northeast and Southwest, where 81% and 80% of schools, respectively, have no ethnic minority teachers.
Joshua Fullard, one of the study’s authors, described the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities as the “most striking and unexpected” element of the study.
“The pool of potential teachers – mostly university graduates – is becoming more diverse, so we would expect more teachers from ethnic minorities,” he said. “But we don’t really notice that. The causes are difficult to identify. The fact that teaching isn’t particularly appealing won’t help. Representation can also be an issue. If the workforce is predominantly white and female, people may think, “There are no people of my background in this profession.”
Fullard called for making education more attractive by raising wages and cutting tuition fees for university-run teacher training programs.
The ISER study also called for official research to be conducted into the potential barriers that prevent ethnic minorities from teaching or advancing to senior school leadership positions.
Problems with recruitment and retention are persistent in England. Each year, more than 30,000 classroom teachers leave the profession, while fewer people enroll in teacher training programs than it takes to replace them.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, the largest union of secondary school headmasters, said the uplifting work teachers were doing had been overlooked because of falling salaries and additional pressure.
“It is difficult to determine why fewer men are entering the profession and why not more people from ethnic minorities,” he said. “However, it would certainly help a lot if more were done to make teaching an attractive career for people of all backgrounds – by improving salaries, ensuring schools and colleges are well-funded and reducing the pressure on them.
“The government plans to increase starting salaries to £30,000, but at the same time proposes granting senior officials a pay below inflation, which will make retention more difficult and potentially exacerbate the teacher shortage.”
Mary Bousted, joint secretary of the National Education Union, pointed out that one in seven teachers gave up within a year. “I think we’ve now come to the point where you really, really need to want to be a teacher and nothing else in order to train,” she said. “Most other professions are not like that. As for immigrant teachers, the education system is not separated from the rest of society. When you talk to black teachers, they say there is stereotyping. For example, they are put in charge of behavior, but not literacy. Their voices are not heard well in the school.”
The Ministry of Education said: “Teaching staff is becoming increasingly diverse – with the latest data showing that 9.3% of teachers reported coming from a minority ethnic background, while 21% of postgraduate teachers in training reported the same. This compares to 14% of people in the general population, but we know there’s still more to go.
“We have established inclusive recruiting campaigns, duty-free grants and grants to encourage talented interns from all backgrounds to teach key topics, and have removed barriers to initial teacher education 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.”