‘Old white men have dominated Ofsted’s history: we shouldn’t be surprised by the gender pay gap’

Tes reports that it is important that the gender pay gap in Ofsted has been made public, but we shouldn’t be surprised by the findings that men in Ofsted are paid on average 8 per cent more than women and receive about 20 per cent more in bonuses.

Like so much in education and elsewhere in the “higher” ranks of both the public and private sectors, discrimination in the inspection service has mirrored discrimination more widely in social attitudes and has done so since the inception of government-based school inspection in 1839.

Until 1870, almost all government inspectors had been to Oxford or Cambridge and all had been independently educated, though their work focused on voluntary schools in receipt of government grants – a very different educational and social milieu. The disproportionate representation of independent teachers as HMI persisted throughout the 20th century – a form of discrimination against those in the state sector.

Needless to say, the vast majority of early inspectors were male. The first female inspectors weren’t appointed until 1896, but then only in the post of “sub-inspector(women)” – nicknamed the “washtub women” by the men and limited to matters dealing with women, girls and younger children. Along with inequalities in responsibilities came considerable differences in salaries, which were not rectified until the 1930s. As late as 1990 there were still far more men than women HMI and far more in senior posts. Only one female senior chief inspector was ever appointed. Even today more men than women hold senior posts within Ofsted.

And then in 1992 along came Ofsted – with, as before, fewer female than male chief inspectors, but initially with a more balanced (but never equal) representation of males and females. This was upset by the later expansion of Ofsted’s responsibilities to include social services, which resulted in the recruitment of many more female inspectors paid on lower pay scales to reflect the lower status of social work compared with education – another form of discrimination, still very much with us.

This article is not intended as “inspector-bashing” but to point out aspects of discrimination that have characterised educational policy and practice more generally over the past century and a half. Such forms of discrimination have undoubtedly been replicated in other branches of public service. 

Read more ‘Old white men have dominated Ofsted’s history: we shouldn’t be surprised by the gender pay gap’

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