So few male primary teachers!
Before I looked at this curious topic in more detail I had a couple of conclusions of my own: either male teachers are not applying for jobs as primary teachers or they are applying and are being rejected. Perhaps a bit of both? Time to find out…
The number of male primary school teachers in the UK, already low, has been falling continuously. In this Daily Telegraph article from 2016 we are told that “when the Department of Education released the school workforce statistics last year, it was revealed that the number of male teachers working in Britain had fallen for the fifth time in as many years. Compared to 2010, when a little over 1 in 4 teachers were men, last year the ratio had dropped to just 1 in 5.” The article poses the obvious question: Does it matter? We are told that a large female teaching staff works better for female pupils than it does for male pupils due to a lack of male role models for the boys. This is not backed up by evidence, however.
A drop from 1 in 4 male teachers to 1 in 5 over a period of 6 years. 1 in 4 was pretty low as it was! And if the Daily Mirror is to be believed it’s even worse than that: “Nearly a million primary school children in England do not have a male teacher, official figures show. There were 31,600 male primary teachers at the last count, compared to 151,200 females – one man for every six women in the role.” [emphasis mine]
Back in September 2011 – when it was 1 in 4 – the Teaching Times also raised the point about a lack of male role models. The then Education Secretary Michael Gove pointed to nerves among male teachers stemming from the ‘legal minefield’ they faced in a primary classroom situation. Fast forward six years and Gove appears to have been singularly unsuccessful in tackling the problem he himself identified.
A government campaign to improve the ‘problem’ had already taken place by the time Gove took office in 2010. In 2009 the schools minister Jim Knight said “Our recruitment campaign emphasises the rewards of a good salary and career path for teachers, as well as the rewards of making a difference to young peoples’ lives”. Well, so much for those carrots! The number of male teachers continued to decline.
Incidentally, decades ago male teachers actually outnumbered their female counterparts, so the change is particularly stark.
In my research I have learned that senior positions in primary schools are often held by males. Perhaps those positions are seen as ‘safer’ than the classroom setting, the dangers of which are highlighted by a post on this Mumsnet forum:
I think it’s really hard for male teachers and the horror stories put them off.
One friend had his social media stalked and was accused of peadophilia. (They had created a fake profile and found him. He does fashion modelling under a pseudonym.)
Thankfully it didn’t stick but his reputation was in tatters. He was devastated and is now unsure whether he wants to continue teaching.
Sure, this is a forum posting and not the most reliable of sources but the second-hand account is telling for me. Indeed, in the time I spent looking I found no first-hand accounts from male teachers explaining why they hadn’t gone into the primary classroom nor why they quit as primary teachers.
I am led to conclude that, in these politically correct days we are living in, male teachers and schools are in a sense complicit, both preferring to ‘play it safe’ rather than risk potential trouble.
Have you had any directly related experiences yourself?
Jim Porter is a Creative Director at Speekee®, the most comprehensive Spanish for kids learning program ever to appear online. Jim’s work includes this homeschool Spanish curriculum and this homeschool Spanish curriculum (not a misprint – he wrote two!) and this Primary School Spanish curriculum.
Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain. He has two bilingual children. More…