When Miss is really a man

"THERE have been two main comments I have received when I tell people that I want to be a teacher. They either call me a paedophile or gay."

Those are not the only two reactions likely to undermine a male primary trainee's confidence, according to research reported to the .British Educational Research Association conference in Exeter this week. Children in the first year of primary tended to address them as "Miss" or "Mrs".

The report says that the small band of men who train and go into primary jobs seem to survive by creating their own "boyzones" of beer, Sunday league football and part-time jobs where their "masculinity" is not in question.

But Bill Milligan, president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, immediately dismissed the findings. "There is no sense in which that pertains in Scotland and no sense of that in the profession. Quite the opposite. Primary male teachers are sought after in Scotland and we have quite a lot of them now," Mr Milligan said.

"I'm not aware of any huge gay culture among male primary teachers or of any great drinking binges. As far as Scotland is concerned, it's a whole lot of bunkum."

The researchers, Pam Lewis of Brighton University and Carrie Weston of Canterbury Christ Church University College, found that male trainees on two university courses were outnumbered 40 to one by women. "I really thought there would be a few more blokes around," one said.

During teaching practice, they felt isolated in all-female staffrooms and confused by their contradictory treatment. Some were suspected of doubtful motives. One trainee was told: "Stay away from the toilets and don't touch the children in any way".

Yet they were also expected to behave like "typical" men: coach football, deal with naughty boys and put up shelves in the classroom.

Four out of eight were fathers who had previously worked in manual jobs and had entered training via access courses, attracted by their experience of parenthood.

The researchers also interviewed senior boys about careers in primary teaching and found strong hostility. They were surprised a degree was necessary to teach infants and said any man who did "would have to be one of those weirdos".

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