Thursday, 18 July 2013

‘Gender balance in UK schools needs to change’

Gender balance in UK schools needs to change

If a recent report is anything to go by it would seem that male teachers are heavily under-represented, particularly in UK primary schools. The findings have led to a call from Education Secretary Michael Gove for an increase in the number of teachers from a ‘wider variety of backgrounds’.

Over the last few years teaching staff made up entirely of women have not been uncommon in England. A recent review found that on average, for every 10 teaching roles within primary schools, only one of those positions will be taken up by a male teacher. However, by September 2013 Gove intends to raise this so that one in every three positions will be taken by a male teacher.

A school in Devon is already helping to lead the way with a teaching faculty made up of equal numbers of males and females. For them, it may be a case that where one man goes another man follows but we wanted to find out.

Enter BBC Education Correspondent Simon Clemison, who recently visited the school to find out exactly how they were able to achieve a near-perfect gender balance when those schools around them are struggling to attract suitable male teaching professionals.

Adam, a new teacher at the school, commented on his reasons for joining, explaining that, ‘It’s nice to have a mix of people and it definitely did influence my decision. Like any job the social aspect is important and it can sometimes be difficult to organise after-work drinks, for example, with just a group of female teachers.

According to researchers, primary school teaching has historically been seen as a nurturing role, putting many male teachers off.

Jody Le Bredonchel, a male teacher at the North Devonshire school has responded to this explaining that, ‘Yes, it can be a nurturing role but men can be caring − it doesn’t have to be a female. It’s important for young children to see a man in a caring profession.’

Catherine Cox, Head Teacher at the same primary school stresses that while their school employs an equal number of male and female teachers, their philosophy is not to balance genders but rather to attract and employ the most qualified and suitable candidates. ‘When new candidates apply for a role here we take them on a tour round the school, letting them hear from both our male and female teachers, to understand what drives them and what they love about working here. It is often this sharing of experiences and ripple of energy generated from our blend of genders that makes others want to be a part of it.’

Research is currently in its infancy and while the number of male teachers in primary education is rising, it’s not yet clear if students do any better from having a gender balance among their teachers.

Teaching is a profession and finding the best place to develop that profession may be more of a driver than avoiding any ‘men deserts’ on the staff list. Government schemes are trying a range of methods to cultivate what has been a female-dominated land but it’s unclear yet whether this will have a major impact,

For me, it’s been longer than I care to mention, but can you recall your time at primary school? Were your teachers male or female and do you think this had an impact on student performance?

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