Scots seek to plug gender gap

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Ministers worry that fewer men are starting training courses in a profession where only 24 per cent are male.

Scottish men are continuing to shun teaching as a career, despite improved pay and conditions, new figures show. Fewer than one in ten students who have just started a BEd primary in Scotland are male, according to the country's teacher-training providers.

Even in secondary teaching, where traditionally the balance has been more equal, there has been a slump in male students to less than 40 per cent.

Scotland has a chronic problem of being unable to attract men into the profession. Only three out of every 50 teachers in Scottish primary schools are male.

Matthew MacIver, chief executive and registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said: "We are very aware of the gender imbalance in the profession. It has been apparent for some time in the primary sector, but increasingly we have seen the trend appear in the secondary sector.

"At the moment, 76 per cent of all registered teachers in Scotland are female and 24 per cent male. In the primary sector, the split is 94 per cent female and 6 per cent male."

Those registering with the council from the most recent cohort of graduates proved there had been no rise in numbers: of the 3,525 graduates, less than 900 were male, approximately 25 per cent.

Jim Conroy, dean of education at the University of Glasgow, said: "It is not a problem per se, but there is an issue of role modelling. More crucially, perhaps, is what these low numbers are saying inadvertently about education itself, that it isn't valuable."

Concern over the lack of males starting training has been eclipsed by fears of them failing to finish their courses. Scotland's record on retaining students in higher education is below the rest of the UK: 17.6 per cent dropped out before the end compared with 14.4 per cent UK-wide, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Anecdotal evidence suggests men are finding it difficult to complete courses. Last year, only two out of twelve men who started at Edinburgh university in 2000 graduated with a BEd. The fear is that with such small numbers beginning BEds and post-graduate training, the low numbers of men in teaching will dwindle further.

It is a pattern evident in other countries, including the rest of the UK, America and Australia. But in Scotland, the situation has become so pronounced that the Scottish Executive has commissioned the University of Edinburgh to investigate. It is expected to report shortly.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "We want to attract the best teachers into the classroom, rather than regulate over gender. However, we are aware of the imbalance."

The universities have welcomed the Executive's action, but few can offer solutions. According to Aberdeen university, recruitment is not gender specific. "It would be discriminatory of us if we were to admit men over women," said a spokesman.

At Stirling, traditional male subjects such as medicine or physics, are now dominated by women. Jim McNally, of the university's Institute of Education, said: "Teaching has always been feminised. This perception could be why fewer men are choosing it."

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