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Is 'feminising' school hurting chances of boys?

A lack of male teachers and a "feminisation" of the curriculum could be damaging boys' education, a leading academic warnedthis week.

Tony Sewell, who runs a science academy for boys with Imperial college, London, said he believed lessons did not nurture traditional male traits such as competitiveness and leadership.

But Professor Christine Skelton, of Roehampton university, said her research found little evidence that hiring more men in primary schools improved boys' results.

And in their book, Missing Men in Education, Mary Thornton and Patricia Bricheno, of Hertfordshire and Cambridge universities, suggest that there has never been a "golden age" in which many teachers in state primary schools were men.

The authors found that the proportion of male primary teachers fluctuated between 20 and 29 per cent for most of the 20th century. Between the early 1990s and 2000, it fell to around 16 per cent, where it has remained.

Michael Watkins, a team leader at the Training and Development Agency for Schools, said he had been encouraged to see that the number of men on postgraduate teacher-training courses had risen by 74 per cent since 2001, although this increase had yet to affect national figures.

The TDAS has recently established a panel of male primary teachers to help it to improve the gender balance.

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