Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management (CRELM)

Women Secondary Headteachers: Pass It On

'Secondary schools are staffed mostly by women, but led mostly by men'

Nationally, just 38% of English state secondary schools are led by women. This compares with a teaching workforce where women dominate at 62%. At the current rate of progress it will take until 2040 for the proportion of women in headship to match the proportion of women in teaching. 

On 14 July 2016, 40 women from Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire county schools will make up the first cohort of a new ESRC funded initiative designed to share research findings, further develop relationships and provide networking opportunities.

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Dr Kay Fuller, will share her research on the day. The women attending will be encouraged to 'pass it on'. The aim is to increase the proportion of women headteachers leading schools in Nottingham from the current 31% (a rise from 19% in 2001) and in Nottinghamshire from 26% (a rise from 16% in 2001). 

The event will draw on grassroots activism from the #WomenEd movement and Leading Women's Alliance. Invited speakers include Janet Sherriff, whose work on equality and diversity in schools is nationally recognised, co-founders of #WomenEd, Hannah Wilson and ASCL lead on equality and diversity Carol Jones.


Dr Kay Fuller's research has already attracted media, social media and government interest, including citation in the 2016 White paper 'Educational Excellence Everywhere' for a co-authored Belmas funded project.

Dr Fuller's analysis of the distribution of women secondary headteachers in England carried out over a 15 year period (2005, 2010 and 2015-16) (Fuller 2009; Fuller 2013; under review) reveals uneven distribution across English local authorities and a slow rate of increase.

A BELMAS funded project (Fuller, Moorosi and Cliffe 2015) revealed some differences in the SLT experiences of women and men who worked in authorities where women had achieved headship in high or low proportions.

Case study findings of one woman's successful preparation of headteachers (Fuller 2015) revealed a series of practices that supported aspiring headteachers to headship.

These are framed as work with the whole school, emerging leaders, the SLT, her expansion of their leadership repertoires and their work beyond the school. Dr Fuller builds on existing teacher professional development research to outline an Expansive Leadership Learning Environment (ELLE).

Dr Kay Fuller

Dr Fuller joined The University of Nottingham as Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in November 2014. Prior to that she was Lecturer in Education, and course leader of the secondary English PGDipEd (Initial Teacher Education) at the University of Birmingham (2007-2014).

Before entering higher education as a lecturer and researcher, Kay worked for 15 years teaching in five mixed community comprehensive schools in three local authorities. She was a teacher of English, head of English and deputy headteacher at a large, mixed comprehensive school in an area of multiple deprivations in Birmingham.



New report

#WomenEd:A movement for women leaders in education
Kay Fuller and Jill Berry
June 2019

In the press




Kay Fuller at the #WomenEd 'Unconference''

Kay Fuller, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management will be presenting at the #WomenEd 'Unconference II' on Saturday 8 October.
06 October 2016

Gender balance of secondary heads won't match workforce until 2040

Dr Kay Fuller, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership found that women made up just 38% of headteachers in state secondary schools in 2015.
10 June 2016




Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management

School of Education
University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

+44 (0)115 951 4543