Call for more female leaders to boost Yorkshire’s school standards

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THE CO-FOUNDER of a movement to promote female leaders in education has said that having a more diverse field of headteachers could help to improve school results in Yorkshire.

Sammena Choudry was speaking at the first #WomenEd event to be held in the North of England.

The event included a series of keynote speeches and had workshops exploring how gender equality should be promoted in schools and how staff returning from maternity leave should be supported. Mrs Choudry is a former teacher, academic and now runs her own education consultancy.

She is one of a group of education leaders who set up the national #WomenEd movement through Twitter.

It joined forces with Leeds Beckett University to host the event at its Headingley campus.

She said: “Only 37 per cent of secondary school leaders are women even though they make up three quarters of the overall school workforce.

“School leaders from BME (black and minority ethnic) communities are even less well represented. They account for three per cent of positions despite BME pupils now representing 30 per cent of the school population.”

She said changing these figures in Yorkshire to ensure a wider breadth of people became headteachers could help to better understand the needs of pupils.

She said this could be an important part of raising standards in the county which lag behind the national average.

“Since we started #WomenEd we have had a conference in London and a series of regional events but this was the first in the North which was important.”

Mrs Choudry is also the founder of Equitable Education, an organisation providing specialist educational consultancy and expertise in closing the gaps for different groups of pupils.

Other speakers at the event on Saturday included Tracy Dell, headteacher at Methley Primary School in Leeds; and Jen Wilson, an English teacher and research student exploring professional learning.

There was a series workshops throughout the day discussing topics such as: What does a school or leader that promotes gender equality look like? How do we project ourselves as leaders and how can we support those returning from maternity leave.

There was also a mentor exchange where people submitted details of the support they were looking for or were able to provide.

Suitable pairings were then found during a networking session at the end of the event.

Dr Damien Page, head of the School of Education and Childhood at Leeds Beckett, said: “With gender and race inequalities still a major issue in the education sector, we’re delighted to collaborate with #WomenEd. As a major provider of teacher education and research, it’s vital Leeds Beckett plays an active role in rapidly increasing diversity in educational leadership, not just for our staff and partners but for our trainees and the young people they educate.”

“The event aims to build confidence and empower women to play a leading role in defining the future of education by creating a community and supporting people in the first and next steps of their career and allowing collaborations to enable the exchange of innovative ideas.”