Headlines: March 14th, 2008

More women than ever before are becoming headteachers and believe their female teaching colleagues should make the step up. New research shows fewer obstacles to women becoming heads but it also finds that many of them lack the confidence to put themselves forward.

The new study, ‘Women in Headship’, published today by the National College For School Leadership, finds that eight out of ten of England’s 13,800 female heads believe more women should take on the role. Although they are still under represented in school leadership, more of the heads feel flexible working and greater acceptance of childcare responsibilities have made the job more attractive. More than half of the women heads also felt that gender discrimination was less of an issue in career progression than it once was.

The study shows, though, that in spite of these positive factors many women teachers do not have the confidence and self-belief to seek promotion and they are more likely than men to doubt their leadership abilities. Almost half underrate their budgeting and financial skills and a fifth have concerns about their management abilities.

The research found that serving female heads are playing a crucial role in building confidence among junior colleagues with 96 per cent of them actively encourage both male and female colleagues to progress. Almost all female teachers agreed that mentoring and advice had accelerated their career progression.

National Succession Consultant and former headteacher Maggie Roger said that with the baby-boom generation of heads coming to retirement age it was crucial that all talented school leaders had confidence in their capabilities to take over the role. “Self-belief can be an issue for candidates, including women, and our advice is that if you believe in yourself, you are more likely to succeed,” she said.

The NCSL has been staging networking events across the country at which education experts have been trying to inspire female headteachers and governors.