Women storm the secondary

"SIR" may soon be a rarely used form of address in secondaries, as seldom used as it is in primaries. In a few years, the vast majority of teachers will be women.

The move towards a female-dominated profession has been confirmed by a General Teaching Council for Scotland analysis of the 2,100 probationers who began one-year induction courses this week.

Almost eight out of 10 (78 per cent) of the 1,000 new teachers in secondary are women, a far higher proportion than in previous years but in line with a rising trend over the past decade. A Scottish Executive statistical breakdown last year showed that 55 per cent of all secondary teachers were women.

Myra Pearson, the GTC's depute registrar, said further investigation into gender balance will be completed next month once all probationers are in place. Her "snapshot" examination of seven authorities shows a 78 per cent22 per cent split between women and men.

In Orkney and the Western Isles, all secondary probationers are women. East Renfrewshire has a 82:18 female-male split: in Inverclyde it is 59:41; in Aberdeen, 69:31; and in South Ayrshire, 66:34.

Ms Pearson expects the ratio to drop slightly when final figures come in but her "gut feeling" is that the number of women has jumped.

"It is a concern that the profession is dominated by female teachers and the increase in secondary is worrying. It raises issues about recruitment and targeting recruitment if we want to encourage a better balance in the profession," she said.

In primary, probationer figures conform to the existing national picture with 93 per cent female and 7 per cent male. Yet ratios differ between authorities. In Dumfries and Galloway, it is an 85:15 split, whereas in Aberdeen it is 95:5. In Orkney and the Western Isles all are women.

Overall, eight out of 10 of the new probationers are women.

Ms Pearson believes part of the answer may lie in universities and the relative attractiveness of certain subjects to men and women. A further anxiety is the age profile of probationers, many of whom are mature entrants.

Nicky Souter, course director for secondary teachers at Strathclyde University, the country's largest teacher training base, said no figures were available but his impression was of a much more female-dominated sector.

"I am quite concerned about that," Mr Souter said. But particular subjects like maths, technological studies and physics were "still distressingly male".

At Aberdeen University last year, there were 57 men and 108 women following the one-year postgraduate courses in secondary teaching. This year, it is slightly better at 50 men and 74 women.

In primary, the figures are in line with national expectations and there will be only 14 men out of 150 entrants to the four-year bachelor of education course and the one-year postgraduate course.

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