Nearly a third of primary schools in England have no male teachers despite efforts to attract more men to the profession, figures released today by the General Teaching Council reveal.
Only 25 per cent of teachers working in both primaries and secondaries are men, the council's annual statistics show.
However, the proportion of men varies significantly between different types of school. Men make up just 13 per cent of primary teachers and 3 per cent of nursery school staff.
Only two men aged under the age of 25 work in state-run nurseries in England, according to the council's register.
Keith Bartley, chief executive of the GTC, said there is a danger that men are being put off teaching younger children because they can be viewed with "suspicion".
"We should focus on attracting the best recruits to teaching regardless of their gender," he said.
"If men do not believe that teaching is a worthwhile career option for them, or worse still, if their interest in teaching is viewed with suspicion, then children potentially miss out on a huge pool of talent."
Jamie Wilson, 22, a nursery teacher in Merseyside, said that within a week of starting his job at a children's centre he had to deal with a parent anxious about leaving their child in the care of a man.
"There is no doubt that there is an acute lack of male teachers throughout our profession," he said.
"Personally, I am firmly of the belief that gender should not be an issue when it comes to early years and primary teachers. Why should it matter?"
The details of the teaching register show a significant leap in the number of ethnic minority teachers, which have gone from 5.3 per cent of the workforce in 2002 to 9.1 per cent in 2008.
The low number of men working in primary schools is a focus of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, which is responsible for recruitment to the teaching profession.
Applications from men to train as primary teachers have risen by 20 per cent over the past five years.
But a survey released this week showed that 72 per cent of people believe it is important for there to be an equal number of male and female primary teachers.
Graham Holley, TDA chief executive, said: "This is not an educational issue: there is nothing wrong with the thousands of splendid women teachers who we are fortunate to have in our schools.
"But a well-balanced, diverse and representative workforce is of huge benefit to children socially and in their broader development."
But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said there was no evidence that having more male teachers had any impact on boys' attainment.
"Evidence shows that pupils, boys and girls, more often cite family and friends as role models rather than teachers," she said.
"Pupils identify with the professional skills of teachers rather than their gender.
"The handwringing about male role models and the comparatively small number of men in primary schools should stop."
GTC CODE CRITICISED
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has criticised the General Teaching Council's code of conduct, which sets out standards for teachers.
The union has written to council chief executive Keith Bartley, raising concerns that the code could be too intrusive.
It says some of its language has more to do with a "public relations exercise" than upholding the "moral character" of the profession.