The Other.

This is anon piece from an Educator and Senior Leader. Othering, Assimilation and life in the U.K.

Trying to navigate a world without a clear identity can cause a feeling of disorientation and rejection. These feelings of identity intensified by the notion that I am always the ‘other’. These feelings materialise through interactions with others and do not emerge in a vacuum within my consciousness. My first memory of being an ‘other’ was a conversation between my teacher and mother; my mother instructed to speak to me in English at home instead of Arabic so that I would not be left behind both socially and academically. It would be years before my mother found the courage to speak to me in her home language again and my father continues to talk to me in his broken English to this day.

The feeling of being the 'other' became more frequent. I have memories of walking with my grandmother who before she passed always wore a headscarf in public. I remember vividly her being referred to as a p*ki by a group of white… Click To Tweet

The feeling of being the ‘other’ became more frequent. I have memories of walking with my grandmother who before she passed always wore a headscarf in public. I remember vividly her being referred to as a p*ki by a group of white teenage boys, and her laughing and telling me that they were silly because we were, in fact, Arabs (we aren’t Arabs we are Berber, can you see how confusing this gets?). In reflection, these moments pass without much thought, but such memories saturate your character. Your anxieties, self-doubt and self-loathing are symptomatic of being the ‘other’ when all you want is to fit in. Growing up on a diet of Nickelodeon, and American sitcoms you learn to hate the shell you inhabit and desire to shed it for an upgrade of blonde hair, blue eyes and fairer skin. I grew up believing that I was Moroccan, but regular visits to Morocco reminded me of all the reasons I wasn’t a native, I couldn’t speak the language, I barely understood it. My interests were different, and although I lived in an area known for it’s social and economic deprivation, I was still a lot more privileged than my extended family in Morocco.

These experiences continue into my professional life, as I lacked the cultural and social capital to be able to navigate genuinely in a predominantly white middle-class space. Click To Tweet

These experiences continue into my professional life, as I lacked the cultural and social capital to be able to navigate genuinely in a predominantly white middle-class space. Globally where those from Muslim and Arab backgrounds are represented frequently as threatening, you automatically assume a position of survival and pacify your existence, so you are less threatening to your peers. I wore a mask, one that creates a new identity that presents as palatable. Not only do I explicitly denounce my family’s faith both overtly, I ensure that my tattoos and love for whisky is on display for all to see and hear, so that I an no longer the ‘other’ but one of ‘you’. Although, this makes me less ‘Islamic’ it brings me no closer to the middle-class community that inhabit the space I work. My racial identity is wrapped firmly around my soul, and there is no getting away from this. When colleagues (with whom I rarely speak with) ask me what my personal views are on Palestine, Turkey, Syria Egypt, and my feelings about terrorist acts, they remind me that I am the ‘other’. When told that I should be grateful for what this country has done for my’ people’, or whether the reason I don’t like Blur is that I prefer Arabic music (I prefer Oasis, Don’t Look Back in Anger is a classic). These are educators who have made assumptions about my heritage, interests, and cultural tastes, and placed me outside of their sphere, harmless in theory, damaging in reality. My inability to challenge these assumptions instead of nod and grin so that I do not make my white colleagues feel comfortable or fear that I may offend them feels me with an immense sense of shame. It is a constant reminder that I am the ‘other’, a soul with no home and identity more reminiscent of shattered glass.

The Statue has Fallen

I have had various people ask me about my views about the Colston Statue in Bristol that was torn down last weekend. I am of the mind that damage to property in normal circumstances is unjust; however, by looking at this at the surface level, we negate the meaningful insight into the why. Let me say this these are not normal circumstances.

Simplistic rules and regulations are not how life works; humans are not machines or computers which follow fixed algorithms or binary code of on or off. Why do we so often find ourselves in a position of either supporting something or not supporting something because we believe that these personal rules hold without really interrogating why?

Let me say this: our rules are made up. You made those rules they don’t mean anything to anyone, even yourself. Where do these innate rules come? Have we been trained to live life like this? This is colonised thinking, and as educator we must fight to change this mode as it will adversely impact on the interactions with young people.

Let’s look at the situation around the last week. We, in the UK, are in lockdown, and the rules are that we should socially distance, when out and not leave the house unless necessary for exercise, socially or for work. Looking at the protestors, On a purely rational basis, either it is easy to see them as reckless and flouting rules if we do not look at the deeper reasons why.

For people to leave their house in the middle of a pandemic means that they are risking their lives. If you are PoC or BAME, you are at a higher risk of death. So it follows that people are risking their lives because it’s worth the risk. What is worth it? Let me start with the police; I do not know of one man of colour who has not had an adverse interaction with a police officer, not one. Think about that. Looking at that statistics:

Black men are twice as likely to die in police custody
Black people are 40 times more likely to stopped and searched
Black people receive longer custodial sentences
Black pupils are more likely to be excluded
The economic inequities which lead to COVID-19 deaths

So, Is it worth it? Yes.

On to the statue. Is it criminal to pull any property of the state down and throw it in the river? No.

Looking at the ‘why’, the statue is a symbol of a man who trafficked humans as cargo, 1000’s were drowned at sea. As the state only stopped paying reparation to the slave owners in 2015, our taxes lined their pockets until then. So not only did the descendants of enslaved people pay the perpetrators for their ancestor’s freedom. Now they are forced to walk past monuments celebrating the same people perpetrated those very same mass murders.

Is it worth it? To those people, yes.

Education after the Black Lives Moment

This blog is from Walter D. Greason, Associate Professor and Chair Educational Leadership Dean Emeritus, The Honors School Monmouth, University (USA)

“Everybody wants to be interdisciplinary, but nobody wants to *be* interdisciplinary.”

The best questions we ask cross the boundaries of formal inquiry.  The wonder of knowledge should inspire us every day, but the weight of data terrifies every writer into a corner of self-assurance. In an information economy, our most valuable currency is accuracy. The most venal sin is to be wrong.

There was always the fear of being seen in error. The sense of embarrassment and the possible of ridicule silenced millions of voices in the schoolhouse and throughout life. The multiplying platforms of public exposure — cable television, the internet, and social media — have amplified this cowardice. No one wants to become the latest meme, unless they’re famous and have a branded line of products that might benefit.

In education, these commercial calculations are pernicious. For students, the lessons of classroom errors settle over decades, discouraging their imagination. For their teachers and educational leaders, the consequences can be much worse. Structures of authority reproduce conformity. Standardized testing limits the possibility of intellectual exploration. Rigid benchmarks of professional development created a generation of instructors who often follow curriculum guides to keep their jobs. Even the best innovators rely too much on predictable scaffolding to model the next steps toward the evidence-based standards of pedagogical research.

Interdisciplinary education undermines these habits. In seeking the limits of knowledge, and applying critical scrutiny to inherited assumptions, students and teachers engage in generative processes that fuel democracy. However, the cost of doing this work in a traditional structure is high. There are penalties for asking the wrong question, about the wrong topic, at the wrong time. So few professionals have interdisciplinary training that the champions of the orthodoxy struggle to understand their importance to the highest principles of education.

Much like the well-worn phrase among Black Americans about the popularity of African-American culture, juxtaposed against the lethal violence and discrimination faced by Black people, many people love to use the idea of being ‘interdisciplinary’. Rare educational systems actually reward the work.

“Freedom Schools for Democracy”

The highest standards of teaching and learning across disciplines evolved in conjunction with processes of social struggle. W.E.B. DuBois wrote about the ‘right to learn’ as one of the fundamental principles of human freedom. In places where oppression prevents people from learning, the determination to seek knowledge is deep and unyielding. One of the most dangerous social settings is the appearance of total availability of knowledge. This illusion deceives many into the assumptions that education is unnecessary, as individuals simply ask questions and find answers.

Any librarian or archivist will describe these assumptions as unfounded. People need guidance in both inquiry and discovery. Every teacher will tell you that some of their greatest moments in the classroom come when students ask unexpected questions that lead to new insights. A central question is, how do we maintain our excitement about teaching and learning together?

Three approaches work best over my career. First, share a common goal for the learning experience. As the class discusses obstacles and assumptions in the topic, their common understanding shapes a sense of community in pursuit of the course’s goals. Second, foster a sense of exploration. When we dismantle the perceived penalties for wrong answers (or silly questions), then everyone relaxes in the joy of mutual discovery.  Third, small, sincere, spontaneous rewards reinforce the pursuit of excellence. When one student has a breakthrough, it is a victory for the entire community. When our celebrations erupt without planning in response for these moments, the classrooms become sites of positive epiphanies.

In the emergence of regional school systems throughout the southern United States in the late nineteenth century, as well as the emergence of activist training centers like the Highlander Folk School in the twentieth century, these principles formed the bedrock of a curriculum dedicated to human freedom. The world faces a moment when we need similar institutions in every nation around the world.

“Virtual Technologies and Distance Learning”

The most powerful teaching practice over the last decade has been the effective use of technology in the classroom. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards point the way toward quality assurance and assessment, but they also reinforce punitive frameworks related to evaluation and accreditation. Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology, Alliance, and Collaboratory (HASTAC) offers innovative, open-ended models that open new doors in higher education, but they need to connect with organizations like National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education to empower a broader group of educational professionals. The combination of these approaches, in the context of freedom school legacies, opens new doors for both experiential and digital education.

Simple interactive games have created stable ways for students to meet curriculum goals in P-8 classrooms. Math and science games, especially, have ways to energize content that often discourages students in traditional settings. As the world’s schools adapted to the pandemic this Spring, many instructors moved into interactive video settings like Flipgrid, Zoom, and Google Chats. The process of adaptation often made for an exciting new platform, initially, but the second phase of teaching and learning required more preparation in shaping productive virtual experiences.

Most of the memorable virtual lessons in my experience revolve around experiential simulations that convey practical strategies based on the course content. Thirty years ago, I could rely on experiences like BaFa, BaFa, or Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes to help students ask more critical questions related to sociology, psychology, and history. A decade ago, I built experiences like “Escape with Nat Turner” or “Explorations in Elie Wiesel’s Night” that uncovered nuance, tragedy, and resilience in the worst moments of human history. Instead of simulations that reinforce patterns of abuse, these games teach students how to question authority and build systems of freedom. More recently, theoretical exercises like “Semiosis” and “Sojourners’ Trail” have taken video game templates and applied them to interactive, virtual platforms.

Beyond powerful archival experiences like “The Colored Conventions Project” or “Visualizing Emancipation”, there are an infinite variety of ways to redesign learning using digital technologies. As schools respond to a pandemic, the ability to engage families with these innovative techniques raises new questions about how we maintain excellence in our educational practices. These interventions were designed to inspire excitement about school attendance, but they can also animate enthusiasm for daily engagement with online academic content.

“Educational Leadership for the Twenty-First Century”

Superintendents, principals, and other educational leaders must be at the forefront of these processes. Adaptation moves most quickly when engaged leaders offer clear incentives for teacher leaders at every level. One of the keys to effective engagement is the application of the ‘flipped classroom’ principles to structures of school administration.

In these cases, the educational leader becomes a facilitator to showcase the insight and effectiveness of teachers and students for parents and elected officials. A charismatic principal or superintendent has often established a legendary reputation, based on the excellence of their teams. Arguably the most impactful reward for excellence in teaching and learning is public acclaim, as well as the material rewards that flow for such recognition.

On a regional or national scale, these patterns of recognition often drive various forms of professional advancement. Exceptional teachers can become principals; outstanding principals can become superintendents. These strategic ladders of success are central, but some of the rungs are less visible or missing entirely.

As the Dean of an Honors School, the patterns of excellence were readily visible. Highly motivated students worked with exceptional instructors. Together, they produced experiences of teaching and learning that inspired whole communities. Rarely, these students continued into careers in education.  Then, as they excelled as educators, they became teacher leaders, and, ultimately, administrators. Very few of these outstanding educators then moved into conversations with scholars in higher education. The two gaps (from student to teacher, from administrator to scholar) can be closed right away, especially through the use of digital tools.

In 2011, Ken Bain led a workshop titled “What the Best Teachers Do.” Based on his experience and research, he brought lessons of effective pedagogy from P-12 systems into higher education. During one workshop in Newark, NJ, a group of educational leaders discussed the best ways to bring graduate research to the P-12 classrooms.  Supervised research experiences helped seasoned educational administrators to expand their understanding of education as a profession with strategies based on extensive data. Further, these same interventions helped student-teachers, in their undergraduate studies, to understand that they could become both administrators and scholars.

This sustained engagement with interdisciplinary research throughout the educational process builds on the successes of Freedom Schools and intensive virtual learning techniques. Together, they are the building blocks for excellence in comprehensive education in the twenty-first century.

Decolonise the Stories

Let’s buy lots of books from authors of colour, and that include characters of colour, which is not a bad idea, but this is fraught with danger. There is an issue with the narratives within the books; There are various resources and link on this website which critique literature and other media.

Today, I want to talk about what we do with books which cause systemic damage. I have never advocated censorship; Problematic texts are a great place to teach about power and it’s dynamics. Holes exist in sections of the canon, the teaching of the causes of that omission is powerful.

I want to talk about what we do with books which cause systemic damage. I have never advocated censorship; Problematic texts are a great place to teach about power and its dynamics. Holes exist in sections of the canon, the teaching of… Click To Tweet

Power flows in one direction: from men to women, from white to the global majority, etc. If we consume enough literature which reinforces these familiar tropes, eventually this leads us to toxic associations. If we are consistently shown that black people cannot achieve anything without the help of a white character (white saviour trope), then this becomes part of our expectations and may form part of our decisions in everyday life.

Like I said earlier, I have never advocated censorship.

However, after various conversations, I have come to the point where I have realised that no matter how many times we teach about power and the relative impact of society. In all the media, we consume the narrative still exists opposed.

Here is the question: where are the counter-narratives?

Where is the of glut black saviour characters? Where are the stories where white people rarely speak? Where male character don’t talk to each about subjects that don’t involve women? Where are the women of colour who are near invisible in this world? Where the disabled characters who are not there as a token but as an integral part of the plot.

Where is the glut of black saviour characters? Where are the stories where white people rarely speak? Where male character don't talk to each about subjects that don't involve women? Where are the women of colour who are near invisible… Click To Tweet

Yes, this is damaging to people who do to fit the narratives in the stories. In all of our lives, we matter. We are the protagonist, support and sometimes even the villain in our own stories. Not seeing in this represented is detrimental to you self worth (Darren Chetty’s work is worth a look).

It also instils a habitus of thought around what stories should look like, how characters should act and look. Writers then follow the same pattern, and the whole system self propagates. What is the answer?

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman expertly flips the narrative and place black people at the core of colonial rule. It expertly shows how the imperial rule works in reverse. I didn’t notice this until the recent BBC series, the black characters are shown as aggressive overlords. I can’t think of another film where white European systemic oppression is showcased in this way. Maybe, I am just losing my mind after a tough week, but you know.

Are there any counter-narratives to the tropes that exist? If there aren’t, should we not try to protect our children from those?

So, what do to do?

Let’s us all think about that.

Distraction – Anti Racism

As an educator, are you ready to have these conversations with your pupils and students? Are you confident enough to be able to navigate and frame these distractions? Have you reconciled them in your own mind?

The following are distractions to the racism they all serve to maintain the status quo.

Distraction is a function white supremacy.

Toni Morrison

Seeing Racism solely as Individual acts. ‘I’m not a bad Person’.

Racism is systemic, structural as well as individual. I often state that individual acts are symptoms of institutionalised and structural racism. Yes, of course, someone attacking a person of colour because of their skin tone is abhorrent. However, this person has gained these views because the system allows it, actually because the system propagates and protects it.

When we frame racism solely as single acts, it’s effortless to play the ‘I don’t use that language’ and the ‘I’m not a bad person’ argument. Propagating racism is the norm, the system we live in adversely impacts the lives of people of colour in the UK. Here are some examples, you receive longer custodial sentences (for the same crimes), receive worse healthcare, achieve worse educational outcomes, are less likely to secure interviews, more likely to be bullied in the workplace, etc. I could go on all day.

Whataboutism

What about the poor white people? What about the white people who have died in police custody? All lives matter though?

This is simple; support for one cause does is not an exclusive agreement, supporting anti-racism does not exclude you from resisting police brutality on the whole. 

At best ‘All lives matter’ is really poor etiquette. 

Would you go to a COVID 19 ward and scream at the victims, while sick and dying that all people matter, because you’d be correct, they do, but as 1. The people afflicted systemically by a disease are currently dying, and you’re are sending the message that their current plight is not as worthy 2. The conversation has moved from the COVID 19 patient to elsewhere. This act is described in detail later.

Is not Race its class?

This argument always baffles me. As a working-class boy, I grew up in relative poverty; Yes, I understand things were hard for all of us. However, my white counterparts didn’t have to deal with being followed around shops, harassed by the police, being told by a teacher, and I quote:

“it’s a shame you aren’t white. You’re really bright; you could have made something of your life.”

I understand that class has a factor in the overall oppression of a person; however, trying to disaggregate is not only pointless it’s damaging.

Denial

We live in a meritocracy if people work hard enough, they’ll rise the ranks and achieve like the rest of us. This is the most insidious lie that we teach and swallow, “work hard, the harder you work, the more you’ll receive” It just doesn’t work like that. I’m going to explain why you can’t, do you own research here.

When PoC and especially Black people do not achieve the same levels, this is put down by the above rhetoric that they don’t work hard enough; it’s never because of institutionalised racism. It follows into the genetically inferior and lazy trope which has been around for centuries.

Centring on anything which isn’t Racism

I often hear that I should consider how I am making my challenges. There are a couple of things here. First, the aggressive man of colour is a common trope; we also know that this once these associations are made they impact on our perception. The second thing here is that this distraction is clear as day. As soon as you start talking about the nature of the challenge, you are no longer talking about racism. This process feels easier; it so much more comfortable but it takes away from the crux of the issue and ultimately upholds and promotes its.

Anti Racism – Commit to Change.

It’s amazing that so many of you have started to see the world through a wider lens, the support on social media is huge. As educators and members of society, this is the time, everyone who has shown their support needs to commit to change. Change in ourselves, change in our school policies and ultimately change in the lives of the young people we serve.

Commit to antiracism and commit to change.

Let’s create a wall of our names.

 

You’ll be added to the commit to change mailing list to keep you updated with the learning and work that comes with your commitment.

 

Chris Dyson – Headteacher

Sameena Choudry – Founder

Rachel Higginson – Education Consultant

Graham Andre – Teacher

Ben Woolmer – Teacher

Charlotte Owen Smith – Teaching Assistant

Stephen Kelly – Headteacher

Zena Zenonos Walker – Senior Leader

Clare Power – SENCO

I’ll update as soon as I can, 200+ people have signed up. Get on it.

Confronting our Biases as White Educators

This is a piece from Laurie Walden, A white educator whose bio is at the end of the piece.

In light of recent events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, many White educators are asking how they can be an ally for their Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students.  As a White American woman living in the UK, I wanted to share my answer about how I confronted my own racial biases and how that has informed my current work.

As a White educator in the US, my confrontation came four years ago through a two-day seminar sponsored by my school district, called “Courageous Conversations About Race” led by Glenn Singleton, based on his book.  Out of all the powerful work that we did, two aspects were life-changing for me. We were asked to spend time thinking about specific examples of racism in our lives.  Immediately, I recalled one specific memory: 

I came home from a sleepover to my father’s horrific racist tirade directed at me, a 14-year-old, because a classmate from an acting class, who happened to be Black, had phoned me while I was away.  This wasn’t the first time I heard racist language come out of his mouth, nor was it the last, but it was the tone of sickening rage directed at me and the vile words directed at someone I knew, which burned that image into my memory. 

We were then asked to partner with someone else and share.  I was partnered with an African American administrator (leader).  As I started to speak, I was shaking and eventually broke down in tears.  I had never told anyone this story, and now I was admitting my shame to a man who was only too accustomed to racial abuse.  He didn’t say a word.  He didn’t need to.  He listened while I dealt with those emotions. 

Later in the day, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire about our experiences with racism.  We had to put a check by each situation we had dealt with.  Out of 50 scenarios, my score was 0.  We were then asked to line up by our answers:  from 0 to 50.  I was the sole White person at 0.  The facilitator then bluntly said, ‘Every White person should be at 0’.  It was simple.  I have never been, nor will I ever be, profiled, stopped, looked at, yelled at, denied, beaten, shot, or jailed because of the colour of my skin.  That is White privilege.

I had never considered myself a racist.  However, it took a long time to understand the difference between the passive act of not being a racist, to the active role of being anti-racist.  As a young person, I did everything in my power to not be at home, so I didn’t have to deal with it.  I took comfort in my colour-blindness and just treated everyone equally.  Now I embrace the difference between equal and equitable and what that means for people of colour. My dad died 25 years ago. Shortly after, I became a teacher and got my master’s degree in education, with a multicultural focus.  I am now undertaking a PhD in culturally responsive pedagogy with a focus on BAME students in Scotland. And yes, that’s White privilege too.

Without knowing where our beliefs and attitudes come from, how can we change and grow?  I am now at a point where I not only own and understand my White privilege; but also understand that White supremacy is the foundation of systemic and institutionalised racism.  I’m still listening and I’m still learning.  This work never ends.

So, to my fellow White educators all over the world… we must do the work!  Before teachers can be culturally responsive to their students, they must confront their own biases and attitudes about race and ethnicity. It should be uncomfortable, maybe even painful; and it should never stop.  Until we get to the heart of why we think the way we do, we cannot hope to understand and help our students confront the racism that Black and Minority Ethnic students face. 

Laurie Walden is an American working on a PhD in Glasgow focused on how Scottish schools use culturally responsive pedagogy and inclusion to foster agency and engagement in their BAME students, including migrants and refugees.

I will be writing a teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders guide to anti racism in the coming few sign up to the mailing list for updates here.

Climate Change and Race

Let me make clear that I am not a climate change denier. The vast majority of scientists in the field agree, and if the community agrees through peer-reviewed research, then that is good enough for me.  

However, I often hear those talking about the green revolution talking about the carbon emission from the global south. The world is burning, and ‘these’ people don’t understand they have to stop. Luckily, I have learned to stop myself from telling these people about themselves.

The damage to the environment enabled prosperity in the west through numerous industrial revolutions. The resulting empires directly impacted on those people who you now deny the same opportunities for wealth, power and equity. Yes, we forget that we live in a relative paradise because of the wealth plundered through colonialism.

Yes, let me reiterate that I believe action is needed concerning climate change. Yes, I also agree that this should be a collection action because this is a global issue. However, what is that action? As I’m British, let’s look at a section of our imperialism.

In the South Asian sub-continent (a small part over the empire), we (the British) exploited $45 trillion over the 200 years that figure is not adjusted to inflation by the way. That is £343916877000000 (assuming the US measure of trillion). Let’s contextualise that absurdly large figure the GDP of the UK on 2019 $2.83 trillion – that is 15 times greater than the gross domestic product for the 6th largest economy in the world.

Here is some quick maths.

The amount divided by the number of people in the United Kingdom

45000000000000 / 66000000

£681818

To pay this amount, each human being in the UK would have to give up £681818.18. Yes. That’s a lot of money. I haven’t even included chattel slavery. 

What I am saying is that you’re asking a people not to destroy the Earth and judging them for doing enough to save the planet, while enjoying the rewards of the exploitation through the damage caused by our governments.

Having various conversations around the environment, it’s obvious that white supremacy inhabits all spaces, including those in activist areas. Often I am told about the overpopulation of the planet and that this must change. I’ve heard about Malthusian principles of sterilisation, population control and even mass genocide, shocking these never are method are never centred on the white middle classes? I wonder why that is?

What I am saying is, yes, it’s essential to the stand for what you think is right; however, when that comes at the expense of race or anything else. Don’t assume that makes you immune to critique.

When teaching the climate change, the omission of (racial) power from this narratives is dangerous. Educators are often fooled into the fallacy of equal standing, this has never been and is not the case.

Exploring the Gender Pay Gap in Education

This guest piece is from Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society – June 2020

Pay inequality thrives because of a lack of transparency. We don’t like talking about pay, and women don’t currently have the right to know what their male colleagues earn even if they suspect pay discrimination. In order to find out, they have to go all the way to an employment tribunal. My charity, the Fawcett Society, is actively campaigning to change that. But in the education sector, there is more transparency there than in most workplaces, with clear pay scales for teaching staff and it is also a highly unionised sector, which is not the case in many other workplaces. So the gender pay gap should be much smaller there than elsewhere, and it is. Yet the headline ONS gender pay gap figures show that across all teaching and education professionals, women earn 7.5% less than men on average. This is partly driven by where women are concentrated in the education sector, with men still dominating higher paid, senior roles, and women forming the majority of lower paid teaching staff. In Higher Education, the gap grows to 8.4%. 

It is also important to note here that the ethnicity pay gap is much wider than the gender pay gap. If we look at the gender pay gap by ethnicity, we find that some minority ethnic groups, particularly Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, earn 26% less than white men—black African women, 20% less. The pay gap is a single, simple figure, but it is the product of multiple structural inequalities. The value of measuring it is it prompts us to ask why and to look behind the numbers.

In secondary schools, women are two-thirds of teaching staff, yet more than 60% of headteachers are men. This is partly because of career breaks that women have taken when they have children. Men progress their careers more quickly when they become fathers but women’s careers plateau or go into reverse when they become mothers. This in turn is driven by structural factors such as our parental leave system which is still structured to give mothers or primary carers 9 months paid leave and fathers or second carers only two weeks paid leave, unless the primary carer chooses to share some leave with their partner. We need to create a leave system which presumes equal responsibility in caring for children. But it’s also a product of the lack of good quality part-time and flexible work. This is still an issue in the teaching profession, where there are fewer part-time teaching roles. So for parents who want to work part-time or to job-share, there are fewer opportunities, and they are less likely to progress. If senior roles are only available full-time, we are excluding a significant proportion of the workforce (mostly women) who want and need to work differently, but who will be as well qualified or even better qualified than the (mostly men) who get those top jobs. That leads to women working below their skill level and doing so for many years. It simply doesn’t make sense for the economy.

Whichever data we use, it takes us to the fundamental question, why is the work done by women valued less than the work done by men? The answer lies in the unpaid care and domestic work that is still largely done by women. If women do all that for free, they and their labour must be worth less. This is why social care workers are valued so poorly, and caring is treated as an unskilled job. So we have to start valuing care, whether paid or unpaid and that in turn will raise the status of women in the labour market. But we have to unravel it further than that. Fawcett’s Early Childhood Commission has found that caring is something that girls are encouraged to do, and boys are discouraged to show. So we don’t just undervalue caring, we actively channel girls towards it and to roles which are caring professions, and we steer boys in a very different direction, towards technical, engineering, science subjects and, consequently, better paid professions.

There is much that can be done to close the pay gap, but it requires action across multiple causes, including the way we teach our youngest children and the way we design work and share unpaid care. But the prize is women fulfilling their potential in the labour market. The prize is equality. Why wouldn’t we want that?