What the mothers think

Tes Editorial

Sandra King, 32, is a single parent with two boys, Nicky, 11 and Perry, 8. Her younger son, now in Year 3, has a male teacher for the second time in his school life. Sandra King believes it has had a beneficial effect on Perry and the rest of his class. "There's a lot of boys and they're quite boisterous. Obnoxious, in fact. This teacher has calmed them down. Perry used to have a really lovely teacher but she found it hard to be firm and they really played on what they saw as her weakness. They take a bit more notice of this teacher.

"Lots of the children have single parents, and there's no male input. I'm not saying teachers should take over a father's role. But if you are a single parent and the children meet Dad once a week or once a month - if they see him at all - then there isn't any other man that they see. Apart from maybe a doctor. Even for the children from two-parent families; they might have a father who's a real bully. If they had a good male teacher, they might realise that not everybody's like that.

"It's not fair to knock the women teachers. I don't think that educationally it's any better to have a male. But socially, it's nice. A good way to see how men can be. He's not being piggish, or macho. And he's not the dustbin man."

Henrietta Cullinan and her partner have three sons aged 9, 7 and 5, and a three-year-old daughter. The children go to a church school.

"Until recently there haven't been any men at our school in the infants, but now there's one in the reception class and it does look slightly odd somehow.

"Seven seems to be an age where it's quite good if they have a male teacher. I would feel differently for my daughter though. At 7, I'd maybe worry that the girls were neglected. At 4, she might feel a bit shy of a male teacher.

"At the school, the priests come in and they're quite influential. And the head's a man. They've had male swimming teachers who've been quite good. They don't seem to have to shout as much.

"I've got a vivid imagination and I would feel slightly less trustful of a man for both boys and girls. It's not so bad in a school where there are lots of people around, but if it was a private lesson like piano I'd wait until I knew the person quire well before leaving a child with them."

Vicky Crosbie, 35, is a single parent with a six-year-old son, Pierre. He has never had a male teacher. Would she like a man to teach him?

"I wouldn't mind either way, as long as the person was OK and I felt comfortable with him or her. Especially for children who haven't got a father at home, a man might be someone to look up to, give them guidelines on what's right and wrong. It might be good to have the role model. For children who have a father at home, they could benefit from seeing men in different roles, not just in strong, physical jobs like building.

"But one day in the holidays Pierre got up crying, saying he didn't want that man teacher next term because he really shouts, really loud. That was two weeks before the beginning of term. I had to re-assure him that he wasn't going to have a man teacher. I think it's because he's not had a man in the home so he's not used to listening to a man shouting. They do sound louder, and maybe more frightening."

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