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Why are male primary school teachers such a rare species?


by Denise Vincent - isbi schools

Why are male primary school teachers such a rare species?A comment from a Mum at the school gates the other day got me thinking about the disparity between the number of male and female teachers in UK primary schools. She mentioned how nice it was that they had a male football coach for an after school club and how it was good for her boy who didn’t have a constant male role model at home, as many children don’t. All the teachers and staff at my Son’s school are female, a fact I’d never questioned before because it’s something I’d grown up myself; but interestingly when I thought back to my own primary school education the two teachers I liked best and learned the most from were actually men.

One in four primary schools in England still has no male registered teacher, yet evidence suggests that primary school children benefit hugely from positive male role models. If we are trying to offer an all-round education to our children, rather than just accumulating academic knowledge, would it be beneficial for children to have the opportunity to learn from a teaching staff that represent our whole society? As more and more families move away from the stereotypical working Father and nurturing Mother roles do we need to question gender stereotypes that say a man has to be strong and can’t be nurturing and show boys and girls that both sexes can care for people and be caring and men and women are equally capable of strength and sensitivity.

Having worked in classrooms I’ve seen that boys often work in different ways and girls are more likely to work in a way that’s valued by the school system. Could a male teacher teach in a way that’s more accessible to boys and value the way they work and learn more than a female teacher? I’m not sure of the answer but it’s an interesting question.

I asked one male primary school teacher how he had been received by parents and other female teaching staff and he told me that although he’d been welcomed with open arms by most he had also experienced doubts about his desire to “wipe noses and find missing mittens” he’d also sensed an unspoken suspicion about his sexual orientation and suffered occasional banter and one case of outright abuse from someone who suggested he was some sort of sexual deviant for wanting to work with young children.

The Government has expressed a need for more male primary teachers and according to research pupils and parents want to see more men in the primary schools classrooms. I’ll be watching with great interest but I’m not convinced things will change quickly.

 
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