Mentoring network set up to help more women break into headship

A new mentoring network to help female teachers become heads is being set up by the Leading Women’s Alliance.

The initiative was one of the practical steps discussed at a conference in London today as a way of tackling the gender disparity at the top of education – 74 per cent of classroom teachers are women but only 65 per cent of heads are female, and a recent analysis found that when they do make the move into headship, women get smaller pay rises than men.

Carol Jones, leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and chair of the Leading Women’s Alliance, which hosted today’s conference, said that while men could be valuable mentors, aspiring women deputy and assistant heads say they would also benefit from female role models.

“We have set up a database for people wanting mentoring and coaching and lots of women, serving school leaders, have also contacted me saying ‘how can I help?’” Ms Jones said. “A lot of deputies want to know how women heads have managed their work/life balance and what attitudes they encounter. They want to talk to serving women heads about those issues.”

Sian Carr, executive principal of the Skinners’ Kent Academy and Skinners’ Kent Primary School, told the conference: “Talent spotting should be the norm in schools and, once spotted, mentoring and coaching should be a right, so that colleagues understand the pathways to headship and feel supported.”

Natasha Boyce, assistant principal of Tudor Grange Samworth Academy in Leicester, said: “Mentoring and coaching is what I need for the next step. I think it is essential. You need someone you can talk to, as a critical friend, someone who appreciates the challenges you face. People are coached and mentored, but it’s not strategic, that is what needs to change.”

The Leading Women’s Alliance consists of ASCL, the Future Leaders Trust, the UCL Institute of Education, #WomenEd, Mulberry School for Girls, Hackney Teaching Schools Alliance and City of London Academy Islington. Ms Jones said interested teachers could contact her at ASCL.

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