Recruiting head teachers: the difficult question – one man, or two women?

On New Year’s Eve the Times published a lengthy piece by Nicola Woolcock, Education Correspondent, about the crisis faced by schools in recruiting and retaining head teachers. At no point did she touch on obvious gender-related explanations for the crisis. Our associated blog piece, with links to her article, is here.

A few points about education and the wider world:

1. Male unemployment has long been higher than female unemployment, yet taxpayer-funded initiatives focus on ‘encouraging’ women to enter traditionally male-dominated lines of work (£30 million is being spent on this doomed objective with respect to engineering alone). Men pay almost three-quarters of the income tax collected in the UK, which largely finance these feminist initiatives. Feminists are taxpayer-funded parasites.
2. From the point of leaving full-time education, women are more likely than men to either not engage in paid employment, or only work part-time.
3. For decades the education system has become ever more feminised, as the proportion of teachers who are women has risen.
4. Boys have been failing in the education system (relative to girls) since the ideologically-motivated replacement of O Levels by GCSEs in the 1987/8 academic year. We strongly recommend William Collins’s piece The Trouble with Boys in Education.
5. The current Education Secretary is Justine Greening, a lesbian, who’s also the Minister for Women and Equalities.
6. The Department of Education continues to take no interest in the educational under-achievement of men and boys. It is clear the department has no concerns about the matter, presumably seeing it as the inevitable consequence of its covert objective, the advantaging of women and girls.

Putting all these things together, would it be rational for measures to be taken to increase the number of male teachers, as well as male head teachers? Of course it would, which is why measures are being taken to increase the number of female head teachers, through job-sharing. This brings us to the latest article article by Nicola Woolcock for the Times, which appears to be sympathetic towards the idea (she’s certainly not critical of it).

It’s a short article, but raises many interesting issues. The full content is reproduced below, with my comments following:

The “brutal” pressure of running a school is leading some head teachers to share the job.

Younger women in senior leadership positions are applying for jobs together, creating part-time “co-headships” that allow them to juggle career and family.

Note the implied desirability of enabling women to “juggle career and family”, without reference to the impact on the work situation of such an inefficient arrangement.

Many governing bodies, however, are reluctant to appoint two people jointly to the top job.

We must applaud the common sense of those governing bodies.

Liz Robinson and Nicola Noble are co-heads at Surrey Square Primary School in Southwark. Ms [my emphasis] Robinson, 40, was its sole head until September 2014 when Mrs Noble, 36, joined her. Both work four days a week and have children aged three and five.

Note that this is a primary school, where pressures on head teachers are presumably markedly less than at secondary schools.

Ms Robinson said: “I’ve been a head teacher for 11 years and I approached Nicola about developing a co-headship…

Whoa! Hold the horses right there. This doesn’t seem to me to be an open and transparent process. Did the governing body approve this ‘approach’? Surely the school should have publicly advertised such a position? At the very least, maybe other teachers at the school might have been better qualified?

… The main factors were having children – it was about making the job sustainable as well as being a mum.”

Why was the job not ‘sustainable’, other than her personal decision to have children? What about the interests of the pupils, and the school?

“People ask, where does the buck stop, who makes the final decision? We make decisions together. You don’t go into a co-headship if you don’t share fundamental values and beliefs. We have different views [whilst sharing fundamental values and beliefs, obviously] but none we can’t navigate.”

Navigate? I think what she’s saying is that if and when the s*** hits the fan, neither of the women will take responsibility. When things go well, they’ll both take the credit.

Ms Robinson was 29 when she became a head. She also does coaching two days a week, including mentoring deputy and assistant heads [There are deputy AND assistant heads? What an excellent job creation scheme for women!] to take the next step.

She added: “It’s a way of making headship work for women [my emphasis] at a certain time in their lives. Women are under-represented as heads.”

So “Ms” Robinson things women are under-represented as heads. Quelle surprise. Hmm, might there be an explanation for this ‘under-representation’? Might it be the result of the disinclination of women to face pressure and responsibility, i.e. far fewer women than men are work-oriented (Catherine Hakim, Preference Theory, 2000)? Of course. She then goes on to admit as much, albeit not explicitly.

Of the pressures of the job, she said: “For some it’s not worth the hassle. Headship is totally brutal [Note: this is a primary school]: the accountability framework, Ofsted, the pace of change, the demands from parents, the layers of people you are responsible for – it’s extreme. [Let’s hope she never leads a platoon going into battle.] If things go wrong, there’s a “let’s sack the head” mentality. People talk about a recruitment crisis – I think there’s more of a retention crisis.

But there’s a difference in sharing the job – it’s fun because we work on the difficult stuff together. Otherwise it can be an isolating and lonely job.”

Well, here’s to you, Ms Robinson. Jesus loves… no, I digress. At taxpayer’s expense you’re having “fun” with Nicola, working “on the difficult stuff together”. And your job is no longer “isolating and lonely”, which generations of headmasters have somehow coped with, without whining.

Co-headship remains a relatively rare arrangement. Mrs Noble said: “Governing bodies are concerned about who is ultimately in charge. Our governors understood the need to think out of the box.”

My hunch is the governors had little choice but to accept the batty idea.

James Topp is chief executive of Ambition School Leadership which fast-tracks bright young teachers into headship roles. He is also chairman of governors at a school with two co-heads.

He said: “There are more people looking at it. It encourages women to return to work sooner after having children. [That’s a desirable objective?] Job shares are so normal in other industries, [are they?] I think it’s something that can be expanded.”

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About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • Quite apart from everything else, these two part timers mentioned in the extract together cost more than one full timer, when you take into account other on costs such as pension contributions and so forth. Plus the extra sick time part time women invariably take.

    • William Gruff

      Not only do they cost more, they produce less output per capita, perhaps less overall.

  • Good comments, Mike. Thank you.

    From everything I have known, hired and worked with, job sharing fits the definition by
    “Alternative work schedule in which two employees voluntarily share the responsibilities of one full time job, and receive salary and benefits on pro-rata basis. Job sharing creates regular part time (half days, alternative days, alternative weeks, etc.) where there was one full time position, and thus avoids a total loss of employment in a layoff.

    From what I read, these two women work four days per week. That might be part-time co-headship but it ain’t job sharing. It is actually largely job duplication, making the ‘one man or two women’ headline quite apt. It’s hard to see why two co-heads could not cover for one another without a deputy, which would save some money, but if the 454-pupil school has a deputy also, well!

    I have arranged a job share for people, for a ‘odd-job’ role. I was involved in job sharing for a while where we each did 3-4 days a week to cover for a 7-day a week technical need, though in reality with hand-over time and meetings we both attended it was really 4 days each (and overtime meant we both averaged around 40 hours a week). In some industries, job shares are not uncommon but they are rare in management for obvious reasons.

    To make things even easier on the women, they could get a third headteacher involved. By that time they’d need a coordinator, or manager. That could be another person, call them a head-headteacher, but they’d have to work full time, of course, so that would probably have to be a man. Then that head-headteacher job could be done instead by two women …