Industry expert Siobhan Ridley ponders over how few male teachers she’s seen at her sons school recently – and why there needs to be more.
‘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,’ says Siobhan. ‘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 with myself. But interestingly, when I thought back to my own primary school education, the two teachers I liked the best and learned the most from were actually men.
Good role models?
‘One in four primary schools in England still has no male registered teacher, yet there are studies that suggest primary school children benefit hugely from positive male role models,’ says Siobhan. ‘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? Don’t we need to show boys and girls that both sexes can care for people? That men and women are equally capable of strength and sensitivity?
‘Having worked in classrooms, I’ve seen that boys often work in different ways to girls, and to each other. Girls are more likely to work in a way that’s valued by the school system; methodical working with gold stars as a reward. Could a male teacher teach in a way that’s more accessible to boys? Male teachers might appreciate and value the way boys work and in turn, boys might learn more than with a female teacher. I’m not sure of the answer but it’s an interesting question.’
Experienced male teachers
‘I asked one male primary school teacher how he had been received by parents and other female teaching staff. 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” – one case of outright abuse from someone who suggested he was some sort of sexual deviant for wanting to work with young children.
‘Mr Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, has expressed the need for more male primary teachers. 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.’
About the author
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