Penalty of being lone male

16th June 2006 at 01:00
The man in the primary staffroom may be feeling more vulnerable than colleagues realise. Michael Shaw reports

Having no one to chat with about football is only one hazard of being the sole male in the staffroom.

It is especially frustrating for Joe Waddle, whose younger brother Chris played for England in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. Mr Waddle, 48, has been the lone male teacher at Benton Park primary in Newcastle for three years.

"The other teachers have been getting patriotic about the England team, but there were blank expressions when I came in the other morning talking about the Italy-Ghana match," he said.

"The conversation in the staffroom tends to be more about childcare and TV programmes like I'm a Celebrity...," he said. "That's why when I'm at parties I find it easier to join in women's conversations than men's."

The Teacher Support Network said this week that men in primary and secondary schools faced a range of gender-related stresses which they were often unwilling to discuss.

Only a quarter of those who contacted the network's helpline last year were male, although men account for a third of teachers in England. Several male teachers described being placed on "bodyguard duty", where they are expected to keep a protective watch on female colleagues if potentially violent parents visit. The NASUWT, the second largest teaching union, this week held a conference to discuss the challenges for male teachers and pupils. It said male staff also felt extremely concerned about their vulnerability to accusations of violent or sexual assault.

Barry Scrymgeour, a Year 4 teacher at St Paul's CofE primary in Wolverhampton, said: "You know you have to be extra careful about what you do, particularly in lessons like PE, and to make sure that you are not left on your own in a classroom with a pupil."

Mr Waddle said he had been placed on "bodyguard duty" to protect a female teacher at a previous school. But, he said the days when female staff would automatically send misbehaving pupils to the male teacher appeared to be on the wane, thanks to whole-school discipline policies.

Some male primary teachers said they felt embarrassed asking female colleagues to the pub for a drink, in case the offer was misconstrued. But Mr Waddle said he still enjoyed staff nights out.

"I do get some odd looks when I walk into a restaurant with 20 women," he said. "But I enjoy the job and if I want to talk about football, I suppose I can always call my brother."

TALKBACK, TESFRIDAY 21

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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