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Why a good man is hard to find

Men have only themselves to blame for their failure to conquer the female-dominated world of the primary classroom, it seems.

They apply late for teacher training, take less care over their applications, and do not prepare enough for interviews, according to a Teacher Training Agency campaign.

The agency has even provided a crib sheet for men, to help them polish their applications and improve their interview performance.

Mary Doherty, director of teacher supply and recruitment, said the agency was not implying that men are lackadaisical in their approach to joining the profession.

But she is anxious that they realise just how competitive the race to get into primary teaching is. While many secondary subjects struggle to recruit trainees, primary courses are over-subscribed, with some receiving up to five times more applicants than they have places. Anyone applying after the December 15 cut-off date (for postgraduate courses) faces a struggle to secure a place for the following September.

Ms Doherty said: "Men don't seem to know it's so competitive and that primary teaching is so popular."

The agency believes around 2,000 men started primary training this academic year, just 13 per cent of the total, and is aiming for 2,400 in 2004-5. Its target is for a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in men.

Ann Slater, head of teacher education at East London university, agrees men are late with their applications - but believes they perform just as well as women on paper and at interview.

She feels some are put off after undertaking work experience in female-dominated schools.

"If they go into a school and there is not even a toilet for them, it puts them off. It is important the schools they go into before they apply for teacher training are men-friendly."

See www.tta.gov.uk for more information, www.gttr.ac.uk for postgraduate applications and www.ucas.ac.uk for undergraduate training

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