Help save the male;Talkback;Features and arts

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
The Government must act to prevent an endangered species from disappearing from our schools - only 12 per cent of primary teachers are male compared with about 25 per cent in the Sixties.

In the early Seventies I was beguiled into leaving local government by a campaign to attract mature men into primary schools. Two years ago I took early retirement after 20 years teaching in a junior school, often as the only male teacher. I miss the children but not the sexism.

A growing number of pupils in our schools belong to one-parent families, most of them headed by a woman. Boys, missing the influence of a father in the home, badly need male teachers as role models.

When I left I was probably the oldest male primary teacher still working at the "chalk face". My contemporaries had either left or gained promotion.

It was a miracle I survived 20 years. I would spend breaks cringing in the staffroom, while female colleagues moaned about men in general, and certain boys in particular. Staff meetings were a nightmare. If I expressed a view that differed from the "party line", I was accused of being awkward.

What can be done to attract more male graduates? Governors should discriminate in favour of men. Just before I left, six men were interviewed for three posts, but none was appointed. I find it difficult to believe they were all unsuitable. Better pay would also help, as would independent tribunals, consisting of an equal number of men and women, where teachers could appeal if they felt they had been victims of sexism.

Unless the Government acts quickly, it won't be long before male teachers become as extinct as the dodo.

Peter Reed lives in Surrey

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