Boys just need good teachers

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Who needs men? Not, it seems, 11-year-old boys - or not as much as we thought. A major study, reported last week, finds that boys of that age do just as well academically with women teachers as with men and even, to the researchers' surprise, have a slightly more positive attitude to school when they are taught by women. The research, which covered 9,000 pupils in British schools, introduces some hard fact into terrain often marked by hysteria on both sides. It suggests that simply putting more men into primary classrooms, on the grounds that they are good role models for boys, will not in itself close the gender gap in achievement.

But it would be tragic if the findings were used to drive that small and brave army of male primary teachers out of the classroom - and even more tragic if it stopped current moves to encourage more men in. The study's findings need to be placed in context. Male primary recruits tend to have lower academic qualifications than their female counterparts. The research may simply be saying that boys - like girls - derive more benefit from being taught by good teachers, of either sex.

Research needs to be interpreted with a healthy dose of common sense. Do we want our primary schools to become completely feminine environments, into which men tiptoe like furtive intruders? No. Do we think the staff in the average primary school should reflect more closely the composition of the world outside? Yes. Could it be that some boys, in some age groups - perhaps even in those delicate early years, perhaps at 11 to 14, when disaffection really sets in - do benefit more from good male teachers? Quite possibly. We need to find out.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today