A good man is hard to find

25th November 2005 at 00:00
The latest research on gender balance in the teaching profession (page one) suggests things may be worse than we thought. There appears to be a depressingly inevitable progression, with boys doing less well at school than girls, moving on in fewer numbers to university, dropping out more prevalently from their courses, entering teacher training at a greatly reduced rate and making up a diminishing proportion of the teaching force.

It is now a growing problem for teacher education institutions as well as schools, for secondaries as well as primaries.

We are not entering new territory here and have commented on the issue many times previously. But perhaps its intractability is now more evident. The key question is how men are to be persuaded to consider teaching as a career. It is noteworthy that the two male primary teachers we feature in our Scotland Plus special report come from a family of primary teachers; that cannot be relied on as a supply route.

The report published today (Friday) rehearses many of the familiar reasons why teaching turns off men - some of them intrinsic to teaching, others not. It is worth making the point that when well-paid jobs are available elsewhere and the economy is performing effectively, all parts of the public sector will struggle to recruit, especially when graduates have to pay off student loans.

Alternative employment routes for males and females may offer another explanation. Salaries for men in the private sector are generally higher, whereas it is often the reverse for women who will therefore find teaching an attractive - and secure - proposition. This is a major obstacle which the education world can do little about on its own. Meanwhile, as the report suggests, teachers can start talking about the good things in their lives, "pour encourager les autres".

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