Primary schools are hit by shortage of male teachers

SUFFOLK: Thousands of youngsters in the county could be at a disadvantage after new figures revealed more than a quarter of primary schools are without male teachers.

Of the 255 primary schools in the county, 99 – the equivalent of 39 per cent – are run with an all-female teaching staff.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) today criticised Suffolk County Council for failing to enhance career progression for primary school teachers through a lack of sufficient funding.

Extra cash could create more positions of responsibility within primary school management teams, encouraging more men into the profession, union chiefs said.

Graham White, Suffolk divisional secretary for the NUT, said while the figures should not be a “major issue” the lack of positive male role models could have an impact on some children.

He said the most important aspect was to have good quality teachers, irrespective of age or sex, but said he would like to see more men teaching younger children at both primary and foundation or nursery level.

Mr White blamed a lack of funding for stifling teachers’ career progression as well as the stigma attached to male primary school teachers.

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He said: “It is a real shame there are not more males in primary teaching. I don’t think boys see enough positive role models.

“They have footballers to look up to, but in terms of day-to-day contact it can be very important for children to have male role models.

“There are many reasons why we don’t see as many male teachers at a primary level. People can be labelled, with others questioning why men would want to teach young children. And in terms of career progression it is possible for men to do better at secondary level.”

Mr White called for a higher starting salary for primary school teachers.

“After the headteacher and possibly a deputy there are usually one, maybe two, positions of responsibility, so there is not a lot of room for progression up the management structure,’’ he said.

Suffolk County Council said more male teachers were being recruited into primary schools via the pool application system as well as teachers applying directly to schools.

A spokesman said when recruiting, schools were not “permitted to positively discriminate in favour of one gender”.

He said: “The local authority (LA) does not recruit and employ teachers, it is for the school to do this and it is therefore the responsibility of the headteacher and governors.”

In 2008, using the pool application system, 174 primary teachers were recruited, 12 pc of whom were male.

Last year of the 189 teachers recruited 13pc were male, while this spring, of the 190 applicants 15pc were male.