Male primary trainees in a woman's world

29th May 2009 at 01:00
Mentors for men on PGCE course to prepare them for careers in female-dominated schools

Men studying to be primary teachers now need special training to cope in schools that are increasingly dominated by women, according to one university's education department.

Exeter has become the latest university running PCGE courses to set up a mentoring scheme for men so they can tackle "delicate" issues with those who have experienced gender politics in school and learn how to understand women.

The Men in Primary scheme, a series of workshops that will run for at least a year, also covers how to behave in the classroom and staffroom, dealing with parents in a school that has very few males and how to present yourself as a professional in the workplace.

The course will also include advice on child protection and sexual harassment.

Out of about 170 people studying the primary PGCE at Exeter, 30 are men.

Two male mentors have been recruited from local primary schools to help, and lecturers say the scheme is an opportunity for students to ask questions without appearing to say the wrong thing.

Further help will come from two members of staff at Exeter, Sue Jones and Nick Givens, who both specialise in gender issues in education.

Earlier this year, the university hosted an open day for male students only. Hertfordshire University runs a similar male mentoring scheme.

The first event, a question and answer session, was held last week. The scheme is being funded with a small amount of money from the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

"We run a similar mentoring scheme for black and ethnic-minority students and we thought this was also a need we had to respond to, and something we needed to deal with in an explicit and overt way," said Anthony Wilson, director of the primary PGCE at Exeter.

"Anecdotally, those who had teaching practice in small rural schools were saying they were the only male, and that's something that needs to be dealt with in a sensitive manner.

"Our students need help in how to deal with issues if they arise. For example, what should they do if a child cries and it seems like they need a hug? Those delicate things need addressing.

"We plan to outline what the guidelines should be, based on the law, and will encourage the men to relate to what we tell them using real-life situations they have encountered."

Dr Wilson said he found himself viewed as a novelty when starting his primary teaching career in London.

PGCE student Jonathan Hudston, a former BBC journalist and book editor, says he has enjoyed working with women during his teaching practice in Dorset.

But Mr Hudston, 42, believes those who don't like being told what to do by women would struggle in primary schools.

"I see it as like a court, with a queen at the centre, and I've quite liked working in this way," he said.

"It can be fantastic because you are treated with courtesy. I think many men are put off from working in primary schools just because it's hard work."

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