School of Education

Where are all the women heads?

Women will remain under-represented among secondary head teachers till 2040 at the current rate of progress, a major new study suggests.

The analysis by Dr Kay Fuller, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the School of Education, shows some local authority areas lag far behind others when it comes to recruitment of women to headships.

In a paper published in the Management in Education Journal today, Dr Fuller analyses new national data on secondary headships from 2001 and 2015. She finds that while there has been an increase – from 25 per cent in 2001 to 38 per cent in 2015 – the proportion of women heads is unlikely to match that of classroom teachers for another quarter of a century.  Currently 86 per cent of primary teachers and 64 per cent of secondary teachers are women.


The underrepresentation of women in secondary school headship in England and elsewhere is an early and longstanding theme in the women and gender in educational leadership literature. The purpose of this article is to report findings from a statistical survey of secondary school head teachers across England. Data available in the public domain on school websites have been collated during a single academic year to present a new picture of where women lead secondary schools in England. Mapping the distribution of women by local authority continues to show considerable unevenness across the country. This article argues that a geographical perspective still has value. It might influence the mobilization of resources to targeted areas and ultimately result in women’s proportionate representation in school leadership. Alongside this is a need for schools and academy trusts to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

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Posted on Friday 7th April 2017

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