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Trusts struggling to close ‘unacceptable’ gender pay gap

The gender pay gap at the country’s biggest trusts has hardly closed despite the roll-out of  schemes such as “unconscious gender bias” training, enhanced maternity leave and the appointment of “diversity champions”.

The average pay gap at the 20 largest trusts was 32.3 per cent last year (meaning women are paid 67.7p to every £1 for men). It constitutes little progress on the 32.5 per cent gap in 2022 and 33 per cent in 2021.

Of the 100 public bodies with the largest pay gaps, 97 were trusts, analysis by The Guardian has found. This is in part because most of the lower-paid and often part-time roles in schools are done by women, as opposed to women in the same role as men simply being paid less.

Schools Week analysis found the gap did narrow at 12 of the 20 biggest trusts. But Vivienne Porritt, co-founder of WomenEd, said the pay gulfs were “not acceptable in a profession that professes to be equitable as part of its core values”.

Employers with 250 or more staff have had to publish median male and female pay per hour since 2018. 

Ormiston Academies Trust improved the most year-on-year, with its gap decreasing from 37.2 per cent to 24 per cent. The trust said its policies include identifying and supporting “champions of diversity”.

Training covers gender bias

Schools Week also looked at the trusts’ pay gaps over a longer period to find those showing sustained improvement.

Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which has improved the most since 2021, said all its senior and middle leaders now get recruitment training, which includes “recognising and challenging unconscious gender bias”.

Courses include “best practice guidance for shortlisting and interviews”.

Staff now qualify for enhanced maternity leave from day one, rather than having to work at the trust for a year to qualify. It also has a long-running “women into leadership” programme.

The Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust has seen its gender gap grow the most since 2021. Women at the trust are now paid 52p for every £1 men earn – the second-worst overall this year.

But chief executive Oliver Burwood expects it to improve given that the last nine heads appointed were all women.

Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust had the second-biggest increase in its median hourly pay gap since 2021-2022, a jump from 23.3 per cent to 31.1 per cent. 

A spokesperson said it was a meritocratic organisation, led by a female CEO. They stressed it was a “fair employer, with a flexible working policy and commitment to national pay frameworks” and claimed the median pay gap is “misleading”.

Ark and Harris have smallest gaps

Ark, with the smallest gap of 13.6 per cent, said it had launched an “inclusive hiring plan” and published guidance and training on the menopause, among other measures.

Harris Federation has the second-lowest gap, despite it increasing from 13.7 to 17.1 year-on-year.

Chief executive Sir Dan Moynihan said the trust funds coaching for all teaching staff via The Maternity Teacher/Paternity Teacher Project, which offers return to work workshops and support for pregnant staff. It also encourages women into leadership schemes.

Moynihan added: “One of the key issues is that women are more likely to return to work part time and sometimes, when they come back part time, there is a feeling that maybe they can’t take on responsibility.

“But, actually, that’s a question of creating an environment where people feel that they can and that they are supported too.”

The United Learning Trust has the third-smallest gap. Sir Jon Coles, its CEO, said the trust has been “trying to promote men into teaching assistant and primary teaching roles” to drive the gap down.

The Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust has the biggest gap, at 53.7 per cent, but insists it is “an equal opportunities employer that pays all staff in line with national terms and conditions”.

Most of its executive leadership team and headteachers are women, a spokesperson added.

In November, WomenEd analysis found the gulf between female and male secondary heads was the largest in 12 years, with women earning £3,908 less on average.

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