Gender Inequality in the British Education System

Despite attempts to counter gender inequality issues in the United Kingdom, it is still possible to see inequality in the British education system. Some of these problems are structural, whereas other issues are problems which are caused by wider society. Inequality within the education system can lead to inequality when the pupils grown up, including implications in terms of future employment prospects.

Achievements

Recent data analysis suggests that boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones. By Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 year olds) girls are already moving ahead of boys in their test scores. In the 2015 test scores, around 83% of girls achieved a level 4 or higher score, whereas only 77% of boys in the same age group were able to attain level 4 or higher. These trends continued up to GCSE level, with around 10% more girls earning 5 or more A* – C grades than boys who were achieving the same standard.

There is now a disparity amongst the amount of male and female school-leavers applying to university. UCAS data suggests that female school-leavers in England are 35% more likely to apply for university than their male peers are. This gap widens even further amongst applicants from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. Women from disadvantaged backgrounds are 58% more likely to apply for university than men from the same background.

Staffing

Another inequality issue within the British education system is the difference in levels of men and women who are employed as teaching and support staff. Just 15% of primary school teachers are male, meaning that many children are lacking a positive male role model within their educational framework. Some schools do not have any male staff members at all. This can be particular problematic for children with learning difficulties that mean that they respond better with men.

Around 38% of teachers in state secondary school are male, but there is still a gender divide based on the subjects taught by men. Male teachers are more likely to specialise in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and PE, whereas women are more likely to teach humanities and languages. A lack of educational role models in STEM and PE can put some girls off taking these subjects. The effect is particularly visible amongst teenage girls who feel that male PE teachers cannot understand their needs properly.

Research also suggests that male teachers are more likely to be employed in high ranking roles within a school, such as Head of Department or Head Teacher. Studies have shown that many women in education see their role as vocational and prefer teaching to administrative or managerial roles, even though the pay grade is lower. One of the major challenges for the education system is making Head Teacher roles more appealing to female applicants.

Many schools say that they would like to hire more male teachers; however fewer men apply for each advertised role in teaching. The Department of Education is currently discussing strategies to recruit and retain more male teachers, and to encourage male teachers to consider a wider range of subjects.

Sexism within Education

Over three quarters of female secondary school pupils in the UK who attend mixed schools claim that they have been on the receiving end of sexist comments from other pupils. There are also concerns about the sexualisation of young girls within the educational environment. It is now harder than ever for young people to escape from sexism and sexualisation, due to the increased use of social media. Many young people do not know where to turn when they receive unwanted sexual content or comments from their peers when they are outside of the classroom.

Many male pupils have also stated that they feel under intense pressure to look and act in a certain way. The number of adolescent males who are suffering from body dysmorphia has increased in recent years. Male pupils must also be supported with previously under-reported problems.

In order to reduce sexism and sexualisation over social media, schools must improve their reporting and safeguarding policies. More should be done to encourage pupils to come forwards if they are suffering from sexism. Sexism should also be studied in a wider social context to help to educate pupils.

11 comments

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    • Mirade pretty on 15/11/2018 at 7:59 PM
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    If the world was as understanding 25 years ago I would be a woman called mirade and work in fashion. I have now found the courage to be myself but I know that I am in for a bumpy ride. Looking for funding. I have had to struggle all my life and have ended up with no savings. But soon as I am able I am really looking forward to being a female employee. I have been a carpenter forman on Heathrow t5 and gchq Twickenham rugby ground and am a good worker. I am hoping for the best advice you can give me. I suffer from anxiety and finding it hard to get help. Xxxx

      • Sally on 22/01/2019 at 10:24 AM
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      Cheers for that!

      • mary on 14/05/2019 at 10:58 AM
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      Unfortunately I completely understand where your coming from. As a now middle aged women I have lost so many opportunities in life due to my gender, they all say the world is your oyster but for us women it is not! I hope my children do not face the same sexism I have undergone x

    • John on 30/09/2019 at 2:50 PM
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    As a male from a working class background in the ’80’s, I was the first member of my family to go into higher education ( At a Polytechnic ) to do a degree. I didn’t feel I fitted in with the middle class environment and fell into a laddish culture with a few other similar lads. Needless to say, my work ethic wasn’t there and I got a poor degree. Luckily for me I later did a second degree by correspondence in a subject I was passionate about and got a decent degree. I’m now a Primary school teacher but still feel like an imposter among the largely middle class workforce.

    • Jeremy Jacobs on 25/10/2019 at 1:32 PM
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    “Recent data analysis suggests that boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones. ” Can someone please explain to me why this is an “”achievement”?

      • L on 11/06/2020 at 1:02 PM
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      Because the author is a misandrist?!

    • Ruth on 07/12/2019 at 1:00 PM
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    Dear, dear ….
    “Boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum milestones”: 83% of girls versus 77% of boys, is cited as one example of data supporting this …. a difference of 6%? Perhaps Gina had a string of very poor maths teachers in high school and in science too (I’m a science teacher myself) to interpret a 6% difference as real evidence of struggling. And now we’ve got a problem of too many women going to university, apparently! … And I think the argument about too few female science teachers is now well and truly redundant. Certainly, it does seem easier to recruit male than female maths teachers but in fact, it’s hard to recruit maths teachers full-stop … If there were no female maths teachers in a school, I would find that disappointing and concerning. But a story I find of far greater interest is John’s and the problem of a cultural class-divide and exclusion (which goes beyond gender). Genuinely opening up the horizons of working class kids is surely a pressing issue , and is no doubt influenced by the way the profession presents itself, eg negatively if perhaps too middle-class. Genuine diversity amongst the teacher population, and within schools, is surely essential and best for all students.

      • M on 13/01/2020 at 9:43 PM
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      As a science teacher, I would expect you to understand statistics better than to simply discount a figure as irrelevant. Given the number of students this figure is based upon, 6% is certainly significant and will have a low margin of error. This is also significant due to the fact that once behind, it’s difficult to catch up, as I hope you would be aware of as a teacher.

    • Darren on 19/06/2020 at 8:46 PM
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    Femanism is the real problem. Before you groan and roll your eyes please read on. Female teachers are over represented in the class room, therefore Femanism is over represented in the class room. Femanism isn’t about true equality anymore, It’s about cherry picking what they want to keep and ignoring the inconvienient bits. Gender bias against boys is rampant, especially in Primary and Secondary settings. Dont beleive me…pick a random set of state secondary school websites (and colleges come to that) and you will see a huge bias towards promoting girls in a positive light. Some websites will leave you wondering whether boys even attend said institution let alone if they actually achieve anything. It has been going on for so long most don’t even notice the bias. Its perpetuated via subtle and some not so subtle positive discrimination against boys. A lot of parents are not well informed or in the know as to what and how subjects are taught in school these days, due to their hectic lives and lack of spare time. Also schools hide behind a cloak of opaqueness, blaming lack of resources for a lack of transparency. If you take into account the amount of positive discrimination against boys and the fact that boys develop later than girls and only catch up by the age of 18 years, boys are doing really well to be where they are!

    The comment Ruth made is indicative of a biased teacher, someone who is indoctrinated (knowingly or unknowingly) into the positive discrimination culture against boys. I would be concerned if she was teaching my Sons with such an attitude towards a problem that is now being taken very serious at the highest levels of government.

    Ruth is more interested in ‘cultural class-divide and exclusion (which goes beyond gender)’ except roughly 50% of those individuals will be male. This is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention away from the elephant in the room, an inconvenient truth.

    • Darren Churchill on 30/06/2020 at 10:21 AM
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    I recently added a comment relating to the
    Gender Inequality in the British Education System. It has not been added to the comments section. Please could you explain why? Thank you.

    1. I have been busy with other things but I’ve added your comment now. Thank you.

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