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Primary schools go on a manhunt

Concern over a lack of role models for boys has forced councils to search for male teachers. Clare Dean reports

NINE OUT of 23 teachers at Guns Village primary school, Sandwell, are men - more than twice the national average.

The West Midlands school is therefore an ideal venue for a scheme that offers "taster" courses to would-be male teachers, designed to encourage them to take up jobs in primaries.

The men teach all ages at Guns Village, a 420-pupil school for three to 11-year-olds. Whether this has helped pupils' performance is unclear. As headteacher Barry Samuel said: "If you have a good teacher it doesn't matter whether they are male or female."

But he added: "The thing is, it's good for boys to have a positive role model."

Just 17 per cent of the 180,000 primary teachers nationally are men. The proportion is even worse in Sandwell - 13 per cent. The three-day taster courses are an attempt to reduce the gender gap.

Run by Wolverhampton University's school of education, they give men first-hand experience of working with children, as well as offering advice on a career in teaching.

And the scheme can claim some success. Up to half of the 45 men who have signed for the course in the past three years have gone on to work in the classroom.

Mr Samuel said: "These courses are an excellent idea. There is a shortage of men in primary education and this is a way of encouraging them to find out what it is really like."

Men applying for the ourse are mainly in their thirties and forties although one 60-year-old has made enquiries.

During their time in the classroom, they work alongside teachers. The men are not left alone with children and they follow the same rules as volunteers.

If the men go on to teacher training they are subject to the usual clearance procedures. This includes the declaration that they have no past convictions and checks on List 99, the Department for Education and Employment register of people considered unsuitable to work with children.

To date, three education authorities - Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Walsall - have been working with the university on the taster courses, which are backed by the Teacher Training Agency.

Mike Lambert, principal lecturer at the university's school of education, said:

"There is a general recognition that the number of men in primary schools needs to be increased. Girls are gaining more from education than boys. A lot of the boys in primary schools have no positive male role model in their life."

Fiona Eldrdige, professional officer with the TTA, said: "It's important for men to work in primary schools not only as role models. If you have got under-representation you are missing good people and we want the best people to work in our schools.

"Under-representation means there is a lot of talent that is not being used in the classroom.

Details of taster courses are available from Mike Lambert. Telephone 01902 322866

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