More men should become nursery and infant teachers, says the National Association of Head Teachers in a new report, Early Years Education: The entitlement to quality.
"We feel that there is a grave imbalance within primary education, with something like 80 per cent female and 20 per cent male," said Roger Hewins, chair of the NAHT's early years working party. The early years are children's most important time in school, he said, and children needed to see both men and women working from the earliest age.
Better professional development opportunities might encourage more men to see primary teaching as a "legitimate profession in which they can be successful".
The document says professional development should be funded by local authorities and the Department for Education, which phased out Grants for Education Support and Training for nursery teachers in 1991.
The NAHT agrees with early years specialists that "teachers of the youngest children need a thorough knowledge and understanding of child development".
They say nursery and infant teachers should undergo initial teacher training courses specialising in the education of children aged three to eight. "Such a course would equip graduates to teach in infant as well as nursery classes and promote awareness of the continuity of learning across the nurserykey stage 1 range", says the booklet. Nursery teachers should be graduates, it stresses.