[Telegraph.co.uk, 07 Aug 2008]
Just one in 50 primary school teachers is male, according to official figures.
By Martin Beckford, Social Affairs Correspondent
Critics say men are deterred from working with young children because of the idea that it is “women’s work”, the low wages and fears they may be branded paedophiles.
But they warn that the absence of male influence in classrooms means that many pupils grow up without important role models, and can lead to problems with discipline.
Anastasia de Waal, head of family and education at the think-tank Civitas, said: “It is very important for children, particularly young ones, to see men as teachers. Seeing men as role models is very important.
“The idea that men are afraid of being seen as paedophiles is very serious. Obviously we want to protect children but we don’t want to get to the stage where we are harming them because they don’t see any men in schools.”
She said the Government should do more to promote the importance of primary school teachers as a way to get more men to choose it as a career.
Statistics published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families disclose that only 2 per cent of staff in nursery and reception classes at English primary schools - who teach under-fives - are male.
In schools with receptions but no nurseries, this falls to just 1 per cent. Recent figures show that men account for just 16 per cent of all primary school teachers.
Its report admits: “As has been the case in previous years, the childcare and early years workforce is overwhelmingly female, with only between 1 and 2 per cent of staff being male.”
This is despite efforts by the Government to increase the proportion of men in nursery and primary schools.
Last year the then education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced a drive to recruit more male teachers to work in primary schools and to train male teaching assistants to work with “hard to reach boys”.
Recent research has shown that primary school pupils themselves want to be taught by men.
A study by the Training and Development Agency for Schools found that 76 per cent of boys are in favour of schools having teachers of both genders, and 51 per cent admitted they behaved better in the presence of a male teacher.
It also found that 39 per cent of boys are not taught by any men, and that 8 per cent had never had a male teacher.
However the TDA claimed the tide may be turning, and said men now account for 15 per cent of new entrants to primary school training schemes.
Graham Holley, its chief executive, said: “Both male and female authority figures play an important role in the development of young people, and we want the teaching workforce to reflect the strengths of our diverse society.
“The number of men applying for primary school training courses is increasing.”
Katherine Rake, director of the equal pay campaign group The Fawcett Society, said women often choose to work in schools because they know they will have long holidays in which they can look after their own children.
But she agreed the predominance of women in schools and nurseries can have negative implications for young boys.
“Some boys can grow up to the age of 11 without a male role model because there are so few men in early years education and I think it has a huge social impact,” Dr Rake said.