We need more male teachers, and to find out why we do not
When I look at a range of issues affecting men and boys in our country, not only does nothing much happen politically, but there is a blindness to the problems in the first place.
Never more so, when it comes to lack of male teachers. National policymakers, government and educationalists do not seem to want to do anything about it – even though four in five current or former teachers (81%) think it is a problem.
At the present time, 35% of secondary school teachers are male, as are a mere 14% of primary and nursery schoolteachers, and 2-3% of early years’ teachers. In fact, 30% of primary schools have no male teacher at all. Boys are also behind girls at every stage of education.
I therefore conducted a short survey to see if current and former teachers thought it was a problem as I do too and what were the reasons.
My report showed that they said male teachers act as positive male role models for girls and boys, particularly benefiting boys without male role models at home or in their community. It also helped boys see that learning is not just something that girls do.
It would also encourage more young men to consider teaching as a career – in essence "you have to see it, to be it.” Schools, like any public institution, should better reflect the communities they serve.
There is also a need to ensure that career opportunities for men are broadened, given the reduction in ‘traditional’ male roles. Teaching must be actively promoted as a career for men – to ensure they are economically active and retain a sense of purpose which work brings. We need to put the same level of focus and investment given to persuading girls of a similar age to take on STEM careers.
The survey asked what were the key barriers. Pay, the lack of prestige and workload were top. Other areas included the fear of false allegations/motives, and teaching not being seen as a male profession for men and the lack of career progression. Many of them apply to female teachers too, but it is certainly worth looking at how teachers’ pay and pay scales impacts on female and male teachers to see if there is a difference.
One additional concern is that I could not find any significant in-depth research about the causes. This inevitably leads to a lack of action and hence why I produced this survey. As an Education Select Committee member who are holding an inquiry on teacher retention and recruitment, how can this elephant in the room not be seen?
I see much discussion about a teacher crisis but never about a male teacher crisis. The facts are in plain sight so it must be a collective strategy for policy inaction. I am very sure that if the gender teacher gap was the other way around, there would be a huge focus and lots of investment. This silence permeates across Government and policy making in general on men’s health and wellbeing issues. Hence why need we need a Minister for Men like we have a Minister for Women, sitting under the more senior role of a Minister for Women and Equalities.
To be clear, this short piece of research is aimed at being a conversation starter. To see if there is an issue, that further research/policy is needed and of course action then taken. The findings show that it does, so the conversation needs to continue and deepen but lead to some actual doing. Ultimately, there can be no more excuses for doing nothing when it is clear we need more male teachers.
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