MORE men than women drop out of teacher training because they are put off by women-dominated staffrooms during their school placements, according to new research.
Several researchers at the BERA conference will be looking at what stops men going into junior schools, and why many of those who do drop out.
The interest in recruiting and retaining men in schools taps into growing concern that the lack of male primary teachers may contribute to boys' underachievement. In tests for seven-year-olds last year significantly more girls than boys achieved the target standard in reading, writing and spelling.
Professor Janet Moyles, of Anglia Polytechnic University, has conducted a Teacher Training Agency-funded study into how men cope on teacher training courses. She found the drop-out rate for men was about twice that of women, and that almost three times as many men had to do retakes.
She said: "Men have unrealistic expectations of courses while females seem to recognise more quickly what is demanded of them.
"Males don't really seek help with problems - a lot of women in week four of the courses may go to a tutor and say I'm not coping, but males bottle it up and by the time others realise there is a problem, it is too late to do anything about it."
She recommends establishing groups where male students at training colleges can get together and support each other.
Professor Moyles sent questionnaires to 80 teacher-training establishments, covering an estimated 160 courses. She also conducted interviews with 25 course leaders, from the 81 who responded.
She suggested that men training to be teachers were initially undeterred by the perception that it is somehow less masculine to enter a primary. They were, however, less happy when faced with the reality of a women-dominated school.
She said: "Students don't realise what it's like working in that environment until they work in it. One of the times of greatest drop-outs was when they did their school placements."
Other researchers looking at the question of the male presence in primary schools include Elizabeth Newman and Tor Foster, who are due to present a University of the West of England paper today, "The fun factor?", looking at what leads men to become primary school teachers.
And Dr Christine Skelton, of the University of Newcastle, will be presenting a paper co-authored by Professor Bruce Carrington, Becky Francis, of the University of North London, and Ian Hall. Their study, "Real Men or new Men?", focuses on the images trainees have of the teaching profession in primary schools.