Getting men into teaching: the battle continues…

2 September 2011

Jeremy Davies writes:

New figures out today reveal that one in four primary schools in England still has no male registered teacher, and in total just 12% of primary school teachers are male. There are only 48 male teachers in state nurseries. The numbers in Wales and Northern Ireland are not much better, and in Scotland they’re worse.

The Government’s response – to announce a “troops to teachers” programme, to be launched later this year. According to education secretary Michael Gove, this will “ensure that there are many more male role models entering teaching”. As well as providing jobs for some of those redundant services personnel we heard about yesterday, no doubt.

Solving the lack of men in teaching is not about providing male role models – the concept that gets trotted out endlessly by the ‘Broken Britain’ brigade – certainly not, at least, in the sense that Mr Gove implies with his idea of drafting in the military.

Women are just as capable as men of instilling discipline in children, of educating them and inspiring them with ideas, dreams and ambition. We don’t need to draft men in to do that! Of course, we want men who teach to be great at all these things – far from automatic if they’re coming from a completely different professional background, without substantial, good quality training!

What this is about is presenting children, from the youngest ages onwards, with clear-as-crystal, living examples of men in caring roles…and of men and women working together to shape our inner worlds.

At the moment, we rely almost entirely on families to provide children with this experience…though we do little, through mechanisms like the parental leave system, pre- and ante-natal education and support for separating families, to ensure it’s available to them.

Getting more men into work with young children will take time…the lack of young men queuing up to work in nurseries and primary schools a symptom – and cause – of the huge gender divide that still plagues us. Quick fix responses that focus on outmoded concepts of what men can bring to the table will not solve the problem…and perpetuate the idea that where bringing up children is concerned, men are ‘other’ .

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