Men shun early years teaching
A drive to recruit more male teachers to boost the foundation phase is failing. Just 10 men in Wales were enrolled on key stage 1 PGCE courses for that age range and first degrees leading to qualified teacher status during 2007-08, the same as the previous year. The 10 made up just 4 per cent of the cohort.
The lack of men was revealed when the Assembly government published teacher-training figures last week. If you include KS2, the number of men rose to 330 - 25 more than last academic year. But males still accounted for just 21 per cent of a female-dominated year.
The growing feminisation of the primary curriculum in the 1990s and boys' increasing underachievement compared with girls were key reasons for the introduction of the foundation phase pilots in 2004.
Experts said the new curriculum - which becomes statutory for all reception classes this September - would be advantageous to both sexes, but it would particularly suit boisterous boys who need challenging learning experiences to counter their short attention spans.
Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford of the Institute of Education in London, who helped develop the foundation phase, said the curriculum could flourish with male teachers because most boys would identify with them as role models.
In 2003, the General Teaching Council for Wales also called for more male primary school recruits, but numbers have remained low.
Dr Tanya Byron, child psychologist and a government adviser in England, recently reignited the debate over male primary teachers by saying it was sad there was a lack of male role models for young boys - especially those from single parent families.
But Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, said it was not surprising so few men chose early years: "Men feel highly vulnerable having any physical contact with such young children. It is a sad reflection of the society we live in."
Chris Keates, the union's general secretary, also questioned experts' calls for more men in the age group.
"There has never been a golden age of male teachers in the profession in the past 100 years," she said. "There is no evidence that matching pupils and teachers by gender makes any difference to educational achievement. Pupils identify with the professional skills of teachers rather than their gender."
Overall trainee teacher numbers in Wales fell by 4 per cent last year, part of a drop of 12 per cent over the past five years. There were cuts after Oxford professor John Furlong published a report in 2006 stating that Wales was producing too many teachers for too few jobs.
There was an encouraging upward trend in secondary PGCEs last year, particularly in shortage subjects. The highest number was in science - 65 more than in 2002-03. The third highest was in maths.
But the number of trainee teachers of Welsh, another shortage subject, fell from 55 to 35 in five years.
Teachers of black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds are still grossly under-represented in Wales, despite calls for more recruits from these groups. Last year, 95 per cent of all trainees were white. Only 5 per cent were black or black British.