The lesser spotted….male primary school teacher?

The Irish News reported statistics earlier in the week illustrating how the decline in the number of male primary school teachers has continued in spite of initiatives aimed at increasing males into the profession (though the paper does not outline the nature of these employer-led efforts.)

In the current academic year, just 1,307 of the 8,473 primary school teachers were male, representing just 15% of the profession. Of these, some 60% of the males were aged 40 or older.

In post-primary schools, the ratio of female to male teachers is just 2:1, so the disparity is certainly most pronounced in the primary sector.

It is a picture that will become apparent to many parents of young children as they notice the absence of male teachers in the schools in which their children are enrolled.

But it is one that, perhaps uniquely, I am rather unfamiliar with working in a school in which some 40% of the staff are males and, of that, all but two under the age of forty.

But does it really matter?

This research report, conducted in England in 2008, suggests it does matter for a variety of reasons. The research suggests that male teachers play a vital role as role models for boys, whilst also indicating that boys were more likely to work harder and approach male teachers than female teachers about difficulties with school or in the home.

Interestingly enough, the news report carried figures from the General Teaching Council in England showing that just 13% of registered primary teachers were males.

Amine Ouzad’s research (perhaps slightly more controversially, ahem) suggests that male teachers were better at getting pupils to listen and work harder than their female counterparts. I must remember to throw that one out during lunchtime in the staff room tomorrow…..

This paper sets out the common responses from female and male teachers to questions implying the necessity and role of a male teacher in the primary school, reflecting how the clumsily expressed desire for more male teachers can often be interpreted as an inference that female teachers are either deficient or male teachers are stereotypically the sports and discipline figures.

There has always been a predominance of female teachers within Foundation and Key Stage 1 as males seemed to feel more comfortable taking classes from Primary 4 upwards, when the children had become more mature. Certainly that has been my experience, though there are a number of exceptions of which I am aware of.

The funny thing about some stereotypes is how they often appear to be soundly based. My own experience would indicate that most female teachers recognise the male teachers as those who should be taking sports teams within a school, and it is also the case in my experience that the male teachers predominate those amongst a teaching staff with the reputations for being disciplinarians, including yours truly.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule again, but they are just that.

So is the presence of male teachers in the classroom really an important issue for society?

Personally, I think it is for many of the reasons outlined in the reports linked above.

On a lighter note, the declining participation in sporting competitions by many primary schools in Belfast previously renowned for their competitive stature has certainly been a consequence, with the absence of males leading to many schools not organising teams or providing only token representation. Naturally, my concern is somewhat tempered by the fact that the absence of real competition has left my own school holding aloft the Primary 6 and Primary 7 Belfast primary school soccer cups again this year….Now there’s a silver lining for you!

  • ” ..lesser spotted..”

    Very clever, Chris. The same is true here. Also females seem to be gaining a monopoly as TV presenters.

  • Zig70

    very important topic to me. I’ve 3 rowdy boys. My eldest was assessed for asbergers but since having a primary male teacher any behavioral issues have greatly reduced. Female teachers don’t seem to have the personality (control freaks?) to deal with attention seeking, the classes seem to dominated by girls telling tales (albeit true ones) on my beloved rascal. I would say the impact of his current (male) teacher will stay with him for the rest of his life. I just hope he gets him in p11 next year.

  • I suppose its a consequence (indirectly) of schools no longer having that familiar “Girls” sign over one door and “Boys” sign over another door.
    Certainly in 1957, the Primary 1 teacher in my Boys School was a woman. The “rule” seemed to be that she taught the same children in Primary 2 while her colleague also taught the same children in P2 that she did in P1.
    After P2, it was all male teachers. And just for the record there were over FIFTY boys in every Primary from P3 to P10 (yes there was a Primary 10) as there was no BOYS secondary school available until 1964. Unless of course you got to Grammar School or failed the 11 plus and got to a Secondary School outside the Parish.
    Im not convinced that a female teacher could control 50 boys.

    At Grammar School one of the fifty or so teachers was an exotic creature known as a “woman”. Her nickname was “Twinkle” (because of an alleged resemblence to a One Hit Wonder). She was an Art teacher so…..well that doesnt really count as a real teacher 😉

    Visiting the same Grammar school for a prospective parents night, I was hearted to learn that my old school had a policy on Bullying. Indeed in my day they also had a policy…..Bullying was compulsory.
    But in this new “sensitive” age, which frankly I prefer male teachers will be as rare as hens teeth.
    Whether thats always a good thing….I dont know.
    But most male teachers of my acquaintance 1959-1970 were…..rather unpleasant people who are possibly in the deepest pit in Hell.

  • Marty Bellew

    I made the transfer from secondary to primary teaching in the belief there were greater career oppurtunities. This has not only proved true, but also a blessing in disguise as I absolutely love teaching in the primary environment. I have read several articles and numerous statistics that (this could be controversial) male teachers are more likely to become bored with the monotony of the primary curriculum. I wonder do many transfer out? My experience so far has been nothing but positive. I have a great relationship with my principal, pupils and their parents. I am just coming to the end of my first year in my post and at parents evening I was shown lots of gratitude from parents telling me that their kids were very happy and appreciative of my efforts.

    Interesting article – is it a Macho thing?

  • nightrider

    Are primary school teachers included in the upcoming strike? By the NUT and other teaching unions, they really need to get real. It maybe an aside to the post but the number of unemployed qualified teachers is the real issue, and it can only be sorted by reducing pay and pensions to a much lower level than at present.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’ve never picked up a macho thing and, indeed, many of our fellow male primary teachers might well consider themselves the macho type.

    I do have to say the photos of the graduating classes in the corridors of St Mary’s College starkly demonstrate the problem- a sea of females surround a small clique of smiling fellas all bunched together….

  • Chris,

    Has St.Joseph’s gone? Three of my brothers trained there.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Long gone, amalgamated with St Mary’s in 1985.

    The old Trench House was knocked down and is the site of the (relatively) new St. Genevieve’s Secondary School.

    Time, as ever, marches on Joe….

  • nightrider

    Stranmillis has/is amalgamated with QUB, unsure about St Mary’s, but why the need for 2 teacher training colleges when only a tiny handful will get jobs. There is a supply and demand issue here.
    More jobs, less pay- and that includes established teachers taking a cut for the interest of the (currently 7500 and rising) unemployed teachers.
    Then there are (cheap) classroom assiants who can do 99% of the teacher’s work. Time for Gove’s freedom for individual schools agenda?

  • I cannot believe that classroom assistants are capable of doing 99% of the work.

  • nightrider

    schools are using classroom assistants more and more.
    The law of supply and demand means there are vast numbers of unemployed qualified teachers. (Falling demographics). So qualified teachers can be employed as classrom assistants. The caveat being these cost slightly more than non teacher qualified clasroom assistants. A qualified teacher is better ‘hiding’ their qualification to get a lower rate classroom assistant job, which doesn’t pay the exorbitant rate of a teacher, but is still much higher than the national average wage. You getting this?

  • nightrider

    Joe, most classroom assistants are qualified teachers.
    Classroom assistants are higher paid than many nurses or frontline soldiers or *importantly* childcare assistants or ‘nannies’, even though they perform the same function.
    Teachers, like legal aid lawyers, are trying to protect their grossly inflated wages and pensions. They’ve been caught out at last.

  • No, nightrider. The only thing I’m getting is that you don’t think highly of teachers. I would disagree with your assessment.

  • When I, and my kids, went through school there were no Classroom Assistants or Teachers Aides as they call them in Canada. So I can’t really comment on their abilities or earnings worth.

  • nightrider

    No Joe, the teachers here are more than adequate, The problem is oversupply. We have a shrinking demographic-have had for many years- and an oversupply of graduate teachers. What to do?
    England beckons for those who dare to enter the truly multicultural comprehensive experience. Romanticised on a current TV series ‘Waterloo Road’. Otherwise it’s a desert for BEd’s (and PGCE’s).

  • abucs

    I think as well that in many Western countries as the number of single parent families increase and the number of family members decrease, some boys and girls are finding themselves without male role models.

    No Father, no uncle, no brother and all teachers female.

    I have just completed a Master of Teaching (Primary) where there were 65 female and only 3 male University students.

    In my practicums there was a total of 1 full time teacher for the 3 schools i attended. (plus 1 assistant Principle, 1 Principle and 1 part time music teacher) as opposed to more than 40 female teachers. In the school i am working at now, i am the only male teacher (together with 1 principle, 1 asistant principle and 1 part time Arabic teacher) and again about 20 females.

  • orly

    Don’t think you’re right nightrider

    How much do you think teachers are paid? As in many careers as you progress up the ladder your pay tends to increase but you don’t just turn up on day 1 and get paid a fortune.

    Teaching is a highly skilled vocation and everyone has experienced good and bad teachers. The good ones are worth a lot more than they get paid – not less.

    For information BELB is advertising for Key Stage 2 teachers in Belfast at the moment. Pay is between 20 and 30 grand for full time posts. Exorbitant? I think not.

    Assistants are doing well to get 8 quid an hour. Again not exactly exorbitant figures.

  • Sorry about this one; but no apologies.

    You can take the girl out of the County Armagh, but you can’t take the County Armagh out of the girl. She’s my hard-headed sister-in-law.

    Once, over my dinner table she gave a definition of what happens in the public services. First the gender quota falls, and it becomes “women’s work”. Then it becomes an occupation dominated by what (at her advancing years) she still refers to as “ethnic minorities”.

    Oh, and the pay and conditions deteriorate.

    Unfortunately, from observation (the health service, education …) there are truths there.