Union moves to combat shortage of male teachers

17th May 2013 at 01:00
NASUWT Scotland calls for positive discrimination to boost numbers

A teaching union has called for positive discrimination to ensure that 30 per cent of teachers in all Scottish schools are male.

Under the NASUWT Scotland proposal, narrowly approved at its annual meeting, exceptions would be allowed only if the Scottish government intervened.

The move came after delegates complained about the low numbers of men in primary and special schools in particular. But, after a vociferous debate, senior NASUWT figures privately expressed disbelief that the motion had been carried.

Proposer Stuart Spence, from Fife, sought to "press the Scottish government, as a matter of urgency, to work towards gender equality in all schools in order to achieve an initial target of 30 per cent male teachers, with exception only allowed by ministerial approval".

Mr Spence noted that only 8.5 per cent of primary teachers were male, and cited one Fife special school where there was one man among 66 staff. Just three secondary subjects had more male teachers than female, he added: craft, design and technology, computing and physics.

He argued that boys needed more male role models and that the high number of female staff in schools was deterring men from becoming teachers.

Speaking in support, South Lanarkshire's Dennis McGeever said: "I work in a school where there are 60 women and 12 men and I think we need to address it." John Melville, from Fife, said there were some children who had never encountered a male teacher.

But there was no shortage of opponents, including East Dunbartonshire's Ann Milgrew: "It should be the best person for the job. It's the future of our children we're considering, and they deserve the best."

National executive member Linda Gray said she understood the rationale behind the motion, but remained opposed: "It's a laudable, admirable intent, but it's not one that we can enforce, and it's not one that we can realistically put a percentage on."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said that the proportion of male teachers in Scottish primaries - 9 per cent - was at its highest since 1997, adding that the government was "focused on ensuring we recruit the best teachers to the profession".

Meanwhile, an emergency motion, carried by a large majority, laid bare members' frustration over the lack of supply cover.

Changes made in 2011 to the way supply teachers are paid, creating what the motion described as a "two-tier system", had created "additional burdens" for other teachers.

These were driven by "corporate HR departments with no understanding or feeling for education", Ms Gray said. A lack of high-quality supply - or any supply at all - ensured "total mayhem and chaos" when absent teachers returned to their school.

Supply teacher Steve Mortimore moved to the Borders last year and had been "totally swamped" with calls from schools. "I feel like I'm the only one on the (supply) list," he said.

Mike Corbett, president of the union's executive council in Scotland, said there were serious problems with lack of supply teachers in some areas, but that the Scottish government had seemed "very sympathetic" and was prepared to raise the issue with local authorities.

NASUWT Scotland has revealed details of a poll of 800 members which showed that just over half had considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months.

"This survey should be taken by the Scottish government as a graphic illustration that they have a profession on the verge of a crisis," general secretary Chris Keates said.


Photo credit: Getty

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