Attempts to increase the number of men entering the teaching profession have failed to improve the gender imbalance in the classroom, according to the head of Wales's teaching watchdog.
Gary Brace, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), said it was "disappointing" that new figures showed the number of male registered teachers has flatlined in recent years.
When the GTCW started collecting statistics in 2002, 28.1 per cent of registered teachers were men. But that percentage has fallen every year since and the figure now stands at just 25.3 per cent.
Although the overall number of registered teachers has risen by 540 in that time, male teachers have fallen by 939.
"This is a disappointing story if you take the profession as a whole," Mr Brace said. "Recent efforts to increase the recruitment of males entering the profession have not been sufficiently effective to make an impact on the overall trend.
"Primary pupils in particular often have little contact with males in a school context, and that's a concern."
Mr Brace said a number of issues the GTCW first highlighted in a policy paper back in 2003 are still relevant: many men still apply to initial teacher training (ITT) courses late in the year when places are already filled; ITT drop-out rates are still higher among men; and men are still put off teaching by negative perceptions from the media and public about men who want to work with children.
Mr Brace said action must be taken to address the gender imbalance. "The responsibility for this is the Welsh Government's - it's in their hands," he said. "Everybody would like to see a better balance in the profession. The challenge is how do you do that when we have to cut the overall numbers of teachers coming through?"
However, the GTCW's annual statistics digest does show some more positive gender trends in other areas.
The number of male newly qualified teachers has increased every year since 2008, from 22.7 per cent to 26.9 per cent this year, and the number of female heads also continues to rise.
Mr Brace said the increase in the number of female heads, particularly in secondary schools, was a "positive story".
"The increasing number of women heads is a welcome trend because pupils can see female role models in senior leadership positions," he said.
The Welsh Government acknowledged the continuing decline in male registered teachers, but said the GTCW's figures do not indicate how many men are actually working in schools.
A spokesman said: "The figures show that the numbers of both male and female teachers who are registered with the GTCW have fallen.
"However, the figures also show an increase in the proportion of male newly qualified teachers registered with the GTCW."
Original headline: Men still shun teaching as figures show gender imbalance persists