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.


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.


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.

Influential Trans People of the Last 100 Years

Being a trans person can be very difficult, especially if you feel as though you are going through your experiences alone. Historically, it was very difficult for trans people to discuss their identity or find out about other people who were experiencing similar gender identity issues. Being transgender is now more widely talked about, and people in the UK are finding it much easier to access the support that they need.

In the last century, the number of transgender role models has increased significantly. Here are some of the most influential trans people from the last 100 years.

Lili Elbe

Lili Elbe gained international recognition after modelling for artist Gerda Gottlieb. Although the public were keen to find out who the mystery model was, they were shocked to discover that she was actually Gottlieb’s husband, who was presenting as a woman. LIli eventually began to present as a woman in public. She went on to become one of the first identified people to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Germany in 1930. She had 4 operations over the course of two years to create female sex organs. Lili sadly passed away in 1931 as a result of complications following the surgery.

Michael Dillion

Michael Dillion was a British doctor who is known as the first person to undergo a phalloplasty operation to create a penis.

Michael began presenting as a man after university. He initially began experimenting with testosterone as a treatment for excessive menstruation, but soon realised that the pills were having a masculinising effect. Michael was soon able to pass as male and many people began to refer to him using male pronouns instead of female ones. Michael came to the attention of plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who performed 13 genital reconstruction surgeries on him to create male sex organs. Michael also wrote a book called “Self” which examined transgenderism from a medical background.

Renee Richards

When Renee Richards first began dressing as a woman, transsexualism was still considered to be a perversion and a mental illness. After a period of anxiety and depression due to gender dysphoria, Renee eventually travelled to Europe and underwent a successful transition. Upon returning to the US, Renee sought to enter into the 1976 US Open. She refused to submit to Barr chromosome testing, and she was therefore banned from competing in the US Open, Wimbledon or the Italian Open. She chose to challenge this decision in the New York State Court, as she believed that this was discriminatory. She won her case and was allowed to compete.

Lou Sullivan

Lou Sullivan was assigned female at birth, however he struggled with his gender identity throughout his childhood.

During his life, Lou wrote extensively about the psychological effects that gender dysphoria had on him whilst he was a child. Lou eventually began to experiment with gender roles and began to present as man. Although his family were supportive of his new gender identity, Lou realised that he would need to move to a larger city to gain acceptance. After transition, Lou lived as a gay man and became an advocate for female-to-male transsexuals.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is the first open transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy. She rose to prominence due to her role as trans female prisoner, Sophia Burset in the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. This role has helped to bring to light the struggles which trans people may face when they are incarcerated.

Outside of her role, Laverne has become a role model and a spokeswomen for the transgender community. She has graced the covers of a large number of leading magazines and featured in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list of 2015.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner first became famous as Olympian and reality TV star Bruce Jenner. As a male competitor, Bruce won Gold in the 1976 Olympics. In 2015, Bruce announced that he actually identified as a woman and intended to begin transitioning to become Caitlyn. Many people shocked by this news, because Bruce Jenner had previously been considered as a peak of masculinity.

Caitlyn’s public gender transition helped to bring gender dysphoria into the limelight and led to wider awareness of transgender people.