By: Simon Collins
Women have finally overtaken men as principals of New Zealand schools, decades after teaching became a female-dominated profession.
Latest data shows that 1222 women and 1139 men were principals of state or integrated schools last year – a reversal from 2015 when there were 1207 male and 1173 female principals.
Sylvia Park School principal Barbara Ala’alatoa, who chairs the teachers’ professional body the Education Council, said the change was “about time”.
“For me, that’s a good thing,” she said.
“The fact of the matter is that we are dominated by females [in the profession]. We would consider that there would be enough teachers in the female pool naturally go on to be leaders.”
But Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford, who spoke out recently concerned about disappearing male teachers, said boys needed more male role models.
He said principals’ meetings were “very much male-dominated” when he started attending them in the 1980s, but that had now changed.
“I don’t have any problem with that. I would just like to see more male teachers,” he said.
Chris May, a Hamilton primary school teacher who wrote a book on Running with a Hurricane – Educating Boys for Manhood, said both boys and girls needed a balance of male and female role models.
“With a lot of single families or families on the move, it really benefits having that balance, and it can be hard to get in some areas, particularly Auckland,” he said.
As early as 1971, women already made up 62 per cent of NZ primary teachers, although they were then only 41 per cent of secondary teachers.
By 2004, those numbers were 82 per cent in primary schools and 57 per cent in secondary schools.
The proportions have actually been relatively stable since then, with women rising to 84 per cent at primary and 60 per cent at secondary level.
Despite this long history, most primary and intermediate school principals were men until 2012, and most secondary principals are still men. Last year 55 per cent of primary, and only 33 per cent of secondary, principals were women.
Pakuranga College principal Mike Williams, who chairs the Secondary Principals’ Association, said it was “only a matter of time” until women caught up in the secondary sector.
He pointed to Adeline Blair, who recently became the first female principal of Kelston Boys’ High School, and Louise Addison, who has just been named to replace long-serving principal Allan Vester at Edgewater College.
But Ford said men were deterred from teaching careers by two factors – the risk of being accused of sexual abuse, and low pay.
“I was paid to go to [teachers’] college when I went through. It was worthwhile,” he said.
“One of the suggestions is a scholarship for men to get them back into the profession to make it more viable. We have got to get them back into the colleges first.”
Trainee numbers in teaching have declined in recent years in recent years because of a buoyant job market in other fields, but the male trainees have actually improved slightly from 15 per cent in 2008 to 18 per cent in 2016 for primary teaching, and from 34 per cent to 40 per cent for secondary teaching.