Research shows students are better off with more diverse teachers, but our teaching workforce does not currently match Australia’s gender and cultural diversity.
This is according to a new report, published today, which highlights evidence that improved diversity in school leadership positions has a range of benefits, including improved student performance, increased innovation and smarter team work.
“We know that an effective school leadership strategy that is focused on increasing the diversity of future leaders has considerable benefits,” said Mark Grant, CEO of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), which published the report.
“This is true for all leadership roles, in all geographical locations from rural and remote to metro areas,” he added.
70% of Australian teachers are women
While Australia’s school students are broadly representative of the general population, our teaching workforce looks somewhat different. Overall more than 70% of primary and secondary school teachers overal are female. Men make up just 18% of primary school teachers and 40% of secondary school teachers.
In terms of cultural diversity, while almost 25% of Australian students come from homes where a language other than English is spoken, the same can only be said of only 9% of primary and 11% of seconday school teachers.
Similarly, while 6% of Australians identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, only 2% of our teachers identify as such, and an even smaller proportion of those are in leadership positions.
“We know that diverse leadership teams improve performance, increase innovation, and generate creative approaches to problem solving,” said Mark.
“It would be a tremendous boon for the education sector if teachers and leaders truly represented all of our community demographics, like different cultural and societal backgrounds, or individuals who identify as having a disability,” he said.
AITSL recommends focussing on diversity among our future school leaders – including a student recruitment process that targets under-represented groups.
The report is called Spotlight: Diversity in School Leadership and is available online.
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.