St George's International School primary head teacher Claire Nuttall, pictured, will speak at the launch of WomenEd BeLux on 5 June
Claire Nuttall is today head of primary at St George’s International School in Luxembourg. But, growing up, she said she never wanted to be a teacher.
“I wanted to be a pilot. I think it was because it was always in me to support when I felt there was an imbalance,” she recalls. At the time, she said there were just two commercial female pilots in the UK.
While, her plans changed and she built a successful career in education in the UK and abroad, Nuttall’s need to challenge gender imbalances remains. Now she is leveraging her experience to help other women in education rise to leadership roles, by helping establish a Luxembourg-Belgian chapter of WomenEd.
“The aim is very much to support women, as simple as that, to try to encourage and support women in leadership,” the school head says.
According to UK government figures, in 2017 three quarters of teachers in the UK are female but women made up just two thirds of headteachers. And the ratio of women from minority ethnic backgrounds progressing to leadership roles is even starker.
Nuttall began her career working in primary schools in inner city London. She had always enjoyed teaching and says it wasn’t until she had trainee teachers shadowing her that she discovered she could make a difference to education outside of the classroom “by training and developing teachers.”
“I didn’t find it difficult,” she says of her career progression, which she credits to having had “good people around me, male and female.” But, she recognises there are many barriers for women in education rising to leadership positions, among them confidence to put themselves forward for a job.
“It’s certainly not capability and it’s not lack of skills,” she says. Nuttall suggests that part of the solution can be found in adjusting selection criteria, in building a diverse staff, governing board and management so that candidates see themselves reflected in those positions.
“When an institution, the teachers, leadership or governorship is all male, you’re not feeling they would want to welcome you,” Nuttall says, adding: “The stronger of us would think ‘I don’t care, I wanted to be a pilot anyway!’ […] That’s what we need to encourage more people to think. If you’re not represented, get in there!”
WomenEd seeks to underline this encouraging messaging with its mantra, urging women to be “10% braver”. And it will support those who respond to the call, helping them in their career progression through networking and mentoring.
WomenEd BeLux officially launches in Luxembourg with its first event on 5 June, from 6pm, in the auditorium of St George’s International School in Luxembourg-Hamm.
A panel, including Nuttall, ISL director Nicki Crush and head of ISF Tervuren Orla Mc Loughlin, will share their journeys to leadership, after which participants will have a chance to network over crémant.
The event is free of charge and open to all people working in (public or private) education in Luxembourg and Belgium, be they teachers, support staff or governors.