Arya ready for women to con­quer ed­u­ca­tion’s Game of Thrones?

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - EDITORIAL -

The big­gest tele­vi­sion event of this sum­mer (set­ting to one side the un­likely rise of Love Is­land) has been the re­turn of the won­der­ful Game of Thrones. In among the end­less re­views, blogs and gen­eral geek­ery have been more than a few com­men­taries about how al­most all the key lead­er­ship roles in this epic drama (if you’ve not watched, you’re miss­ing out) are now filled by “pow­er­ful women”. It is in­deed strik­ing that over the block­buster’s seven se­ries, most of the lead­ing men have fallen foul of hideously blood­thirsty deaths – to be re­placed by their more ef­fec­tive, prag­matic and (oc­ca­sion­ally) honourable sis­ters, wives, moth­ers or daugh­ters. (Even the sex scenes are lauded as fem­i­nist – but I’ll leave you to Google that.)

In its way – and with con­sid­er­ably less gore and Sky razzmatazz – the world of ed­u­ca­tion has been go­ing through a par­al­lel gen­der rev­o­lu­tion. It may have seemed lit­tle more than a po­lit­i­cal foot­note, but the parachut­ing in of Sarah Ol­ney as Lib Dem ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son right in the mid­dle of the gen­eral elec­tion meant that 2017 was the first time ever that the top ed­u­ca­tion job in all three par­ties was held by a woman.

Schools de­bates in the Commons now in­volve Jus­tine Green­ing against Labour’s An­gela Rayner and the newly ap­pointed Lib Dem Layla Mo­ran. (Ol­ney’s rise and fall at the hands of Zac Gold­smith was wor­thy of a

GOT sub-plot in it­self.) Con­trast this with the 2015 elec­tion, when ed­u­ca­tion’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape was still dom­i­nated by the shadow of Michael Gove (although Nicky Mor­gan was in the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion),

David Laws was fronting the Lib Dems’ ed­u­ca­tion team and Tris­tram Hunt rep­re­sented Labour.

In 2017, the top job at Of­sted was va­cated by Sir Michael Wil­shaw and handed to the more diplo­matic Amanda Spiel­man. We can go fur­ther. Ofqual’s new chief is Sally Collier. In ed­u­ca­tion re­search, the big­gest aca­demic role – di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion – is now oc­cu­pied by Becky Fran­cis, while the new(ish) Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute is driven for­ward by Natalie Per­era. The boss of the new Char­tered Col­lege of Teach­ing is Dame Ali­son Pea­cock. In­deed, the nor­mal oc­cu­pant of this col­umn is ed­u­ca­tion’s very own fiery Khaleesi.

The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Union – to be formed out of a merger of the NUT and

ATL teach­ing unions – will have a fe­male joint gen­eral sec­re­tary in Mary Bousted, and the NASUWT teach­ing union is, of course led by the in­de­fati­ga­ble Chris Keates. Only the head­teacher as­so­ci­a­tions, namely the NAHT and the As­so­ci­a­tion of School and Col­lege Lead­ers, re­main as bas­tions of male lead­er­ship – both el­e­vated new gen­eral sec­re­taries this spring, re­plac­ing men with more men­folk. Their in­de­pen­dent sec­tor coun­ter­part, the HMC gen­eral sec­re­tary, re­mains re­li­ably a “he”.

De­spite this, it’s worth a re­minder that while the oc­cu­pants of many of ed­u­ca­tion’s top jobs are now women, the most im­por­tant role of all is still dis­pro­por­tion­ately oc­cu­pied by men – the role of head­teacher.

The pay gap be­tween men and women in teach­ing re­mains, too. Fe­male teach­ers work­ing in sec­ondary schools earn, on av­er­age, 6.4 per cent less than their male col­leagues. The BBC has taken much flak over its salary dif­fer­en­tial and re­sponded by mak­ing it a cor­po­rate pri­or­ity that it will have been ended by 2020: it should not be too much for the schools sec­tor’s fe­male bosses to try to do the same.

Such re­form should be car­ried along by good­will, and should not need the kind of blood­let­ting that marks every ad­vance in Got’s won­der­fully imag­ined world. And if you don’t hin­der this ad­vice, be warned: the dwin­dling group of re­main­ing male leads in HBO’S fan­tasy epic is dom­i­nated by eu­nuchs…

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