A very distinct and concerning pattern emerges when looking through the staff lists of local primary schools. The gender balance is heavily skewed in favour of women. The seriousness of the issue has been highlighted by a recent report showing that 3,680 UK primary schools don’t have any male teachers. What are the reasons behind this, is it a problem and, if so, what are the potential solutions?
Seemingly established perceptions
There appears to be a general perception that many primary school roles are ideally suited to women. This is particularly true of early years teachers, teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors.
Research has revealed that a considerable number of men are reluctant to work in schools for fear of being labelled as paedophiles or homosexuals. Simon Brownhill, Teaching Associate at the Faculty of Education said, “They [prospective school workers] are worried that parents see them as a potential threat to their children.” The suspicions arise partly as a consequence of high-profile media reports regarding heinous criminal acts carried out by men. However, the NSPCC have revealed that women are just as likely as men to commit acts of physical abuse and neglect.
Concerned parents may be assured to discover that schools in the UK are legally required to obtain CRB certificates (now known as DBS checks – Disclosure and Barring Service) for all new employees. Staff members are also expected to comply with strict policies regarding pupil welfare and safeguarding. Every possible effort is made to ensure the safety and security of different school environments. However, it is absolutely essential that male school workers should be treated in the same professional manner as their female counterparts.
There is absolutely no reason why men shouldn’t fulfil early years and primary school teaching roles.
What’s the problem?
I don’t think it’s a problem, as such, but I strongly believe it’s important for children to have the opportunity to watch and learn from, relate to, and interact with positive male role models in the primary school setting, whether through teachers or head teachers or teaching assistants.
Certainly, in my opinion, children living in the sole care of their mother would benefit from contact with positive male role models. This is a particularly pertinent point, given that Britain has 1.8million single-parent households and it’s almost always the mother who takes on the role of predominant carer.
It has also been found that young boys feel more able to relate to male teachers. Men who fulfil such roles gain increased confidence in their ability to communicate and care for the young.
Gender shouldn’t come into the equation when it comes to the selection of school staff (indeed, such discrimination is illegal).
Employment decisions need to be made in accordance with the proof of necessary educational skills and commitment to the children’s continued development. Male teachers shouldn’t be singled out as role models, but they should be valued for the provision of high quality education and guidance.
If the gender issue is dealt with appropriately, more younger people will have confidence in their suitability for roles in the educational sphere. And so the cycle continues …