The plummetting proportion of men in teaching has been explained as the result of poor salaries. A more likely cause is the stigma that surrounds men working with kids.
New research published in the Times Educational Supplement found that on average men make up only 13 per cent of primary school teachers – down from 23 per cent in 1980. In Reading, only seven per cent of primary school teachers are male.
It’s not hard to see the problems with this. A survey last year found that parents worry about boys lacking a male role model at school. Boys are particularly susceptible to hero worship, and an inspiring teacher at a young age can make all the difference.
A big reason for the men staying away is that they are made to feel like perverts for wanting to work with children. One of the signatories to our vetting petition, H.J. Cunnington, is the grandfather of a male primary school teacher, and recalls: ‘My grandson went to help a little girl who had fallen in the playground. She cried out saying “you mustn’t touch me because my hurt is above the knee”.’
These kinds of incidents are by no means unusual. Research by Heather Piper at Manchester Metropolitan University found that male teachers often called for female colleagues if a child fell over and hurt themselves. One of her interviewees said that this climate led to an ‘implanted awareness’, and ‘a definite hesitation and suspicion of myself’.
Rather than more money, it will take a more reasonable and trusting environment to tempt men back into the classroom.