The Big Question: Does it matter that fewer men teach in schools?

Each week, we’ll speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate

This week’s question:  Does it matter that fewer men teach in schools?

Male primary school teachers have a positive effect on boys’ learning and development, according to a new study commissioned by the Training and Development Agency.

The study, which involved 800 men, found that just over a third worked harder as pupils; under a quarter felt more confident and around half felt they could discuss bullying issues when they were taught by men in primary schools. 

However, a recent DCSF study found that boys were sometimes more likely to be treated harshly and unfairly than girls by male teachers.  Also, other studies show that boys do not always see the need for more male teachers.

Numbers of male teacher graduates are falling and currently 13% of primary school teachers are male.  The Training and Development Agency is urging more men to take up teacher training.  . 


Here are some thoughts from the school community:

“I’m head of year 9 at a Muslim boys school and in this culture boys are taught to be more respectful to men than women, so putting more male teachers in the classroom is definitely not the answer.  Moreover, what about the weak male teachers who have a negative effect on children’s progress?

“Although some would argue that this need is heightened for boys from single parent families, I don’t see a need for male teachers here either.  Children do well if their teacher and parent/s are caring, skilled and good in their roles regardless of gender or family composition.”

Monica Bento, Head of Year 9, International School of Qatar

“I think it’s important that there is a balance of male and female teachers not only in the classroom but also in the running of the school.  In general, boys do need male teachers to identify with, although I’ve found that boys in secondary schools often turn to female teachers if they have a problem. 

“The question is how to attract male teachers. How can teachers advise students to become teachers when they know they will struggle to pay their mortgage?  Other graduate starting salaries are so much higher and even tanker drivers are earning far in excess of most teachers.  I guess the economic downturn will secure a few more applicants now but how many will stay when other jobs return?

“Teaching is destined to become more and more of a female profession, so the question is not whether this is a good or bad thing but how do we deal with the inevitable?”

Mike Chappell, Head of Economics and Business Studies, Secondary School

“I don’t think this argument is clear cut or proven at all.  Two years ago, as a male teacher of a mixed Year 5/6 class two years, a class survey found that I reacted differently to boys and girls misbehaviour; I was more likely to give immediate reprimands and punishment when boys broke the rule, rather than girls  In the subsequent two years, I have been careful to treat the children with a degree of arms-length neutrality, and a similar survey last year showed that the children now thought I was fair to all.

“Nevertheless, it’s important to attract men into profession for a number of reasons.  Not least that some boys and girls do respond better to a male teacher, and it is important that they continue to have this opportunity.  Secondly, if teaching is seen to be a female profession, there are implications for its status as a whole.  I know that that implies that society is sexist but, unfortunately, that is probably true.

“On another note, I spent the first 10 years of my teaching career as an early years specialist teaching in nursery and reception classes.  When I applied for a job as a teacher-in-charge of early years I was told by the headteacher that if I was successful she would be inclined to place me in a Year 2 class “as people might be suspicious of a man in the nursery.”  Needless to say, I withdrew my application immediately.  There’s definitely a view that early years teaching is not suitable for men, and they probably end up teaching older age groups in primary schools.”

Damian Hassan, Advanced Skills Teacher, Primary, Durham

Does it matter that fewer men teach in schools? Post below and share your views.