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Study defies the 'boys need men' credo

NEW research challenges the belief that male teachers make a difference in primary schools.

It says there is no link between the number of male teachers in a school and the performance of its pupils in key stage 2 tests.

The finding raises questions about government policies and politicians'

assertions that more male teachers are needed to boost the academic performance of boys.

School standards minister Stephen Timms said in January that more male role models were needed after MP Diane Abbott claimed that black boys were underachieving because of a lack of male primary teachers.

Latest figures show that just over 13 per cent of primary teachers are men. Applications from men for postgraduate teacher training in England are up 356 on last year.

The Teacher Training Agency's target is for men to make up 15 per cent of primary trainees in 200203.

But Mary Thornton and Pat Bricheno, from Hertfordshire University, suggest the proportion of pupils with special needs is more significant than the sex of their teacher when it comes to test results.

The researchers looked at key stage test results for pupils and special needs data from a random sample of 846 primaries. This was compared with the number of women and men teachers, and the gender of the headteacher. The study also took into account the type of school and its location.

It found that schools with more men teachers did not get better test results than the rest.

If the head was a man, however, schools were more likely to have more male teachers. There were also more men in larger schools. Maths results were slightly better in schools with a male headteacher.

Dr Thornton said: "On the basis of these findings, I would be surprised if the boys who had more male teachers did any better than boys with mainly female teachers."

The researchers are now looking at inspection reports of the sample schools to explore whether management style and ethos make a difference.

Leader, 22

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