Further evidence emerged this week that men are continuing to turn their backs on teaching, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the Scottish Executive's attempts to recruit more male teachers.
The latest research, published by the Scottish Executive today (Friday), has set alarm bells ringing amid fears of an unstoppable feminisation of the profession and its implications for boys who will have no male role models.
This has been underlined in a survey of undergraduates for the report which found that, in general, teaching is not highly regarded as a career.
"Women and those from less advantaged neighbourhoods were more likely to see teaching as a possible career choice," it states. "This may not indicate great enthusiasm, but lack of more attractive alternatives. The views expressed in the survey suggest that young men may be particularly reluctant recruits."
Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "If the pool of graduate teachers you are fishing in almost excludes males, that increases the challenge of recruiting the numbers you need."
David Eaglesham, Mr Smith's counterpart at the Scottish Secondary Teachers'
Association, said negative reports about teaching may also be a deterrent.
Today's report on the gender gap shows a continuing decline in male teachers -from 30 per cent in 1998 to 26 per cent in 2003. That year, men made up just 10 per cent of entrants to primary training and 39 per cent in secondary.
Statistical analysis shows that the gap is widening particularly quickly in the secondary sector, and male dominance in a number of subjects is under threat. Younger women now make up the majority of teachers in mathematics, science, history and modern studies.
The report also shows that the proportion of male students training to teach history, geography, chemistry, music and technical education is well below the proportion of men currently teaching these subjects in schools.
Drop-out rates from teacher education courses are described as "high overall", but men are much more likely to give up.
The authors state: "High levels of attrition, particularly in some subject areas, may indicate either a problem with the course or that students lack commitment and motivation."
Male graduates, it is argued, tend to be lured by better paid private sector jobs. The growing feminisation of teaching is also thought to be offputting. Men associate its overwhelmingly female image with reduced status.
In primary, the growing emphasis on child protection may be acting as a further deterrent, creating a climate where men fear they will be treated with suspicion if they want to work with children.
It is suggested that discipline problems and low social status make secondary teaching an unattractive choice. On the other hand, teachers'
holidays and the family-friendly profile of the profession are seen as big plus points.
The report suggests that one way of attracting more mature male entrants into teaching might be to reinstate the option of starting higher up the pay scale. Since the national teachers' agreement, mature entrants can enter on a higher salary only if they can prove relevant experience. The EIS believes, however, that this would run foul of age discrimination legislation.
A number of strategies to attract people into initial teacher education are considered, including the controversial "Teach First" programme being trialled in England, under which the brightest graduates go straight into schools, learning on the job. Peter Peacock, Education Minister, has already dismissed calls for this initiative to be introduced into Scotland.
Other suggestions in the report are better advertising and promotion of teaching, improved links with university careers services, a higher profile for recent improvements in pay and persuading teachers, unions and politicians to "talk up" the profession.
Mr Smith and Mr Eaglesham agreed there was a job to be done, not least by the unions, to counter negative images. Mr Eaglesham said there was a danger of "talking ourselves into oblivion" by sounding negative.
Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, said: "The primary teacher image is a cultural thing - the same is true for nursery. It is something we need to tackle. There is seen as nothing wrong with men being nurses and taking on other roles in professions which are seen as caring."
A spokeswoman for the Executive said it would look at the report's implications for teacher training and recruitment.
leader 22 Bucking the trend, Scotland Plus 2-3 Gender Balance of the Teaching Workforce in Publicly Funded Schools in Scotland, Scottish Executive.