A piece in today’s Times:
Thousands of male teachers are leaving secondary school classrooms every year, fuelling fears that a lack of role models is contributing to the under-performance of boys.
The exodus over the past decade means that men comprise slightly more than a third of teachers in secondary schools nationally, and only a quarter in some regions. In primary schools only one in seven teachers is male.
The figures prompted calls for greater efforts to encourage men into the profession as its leaders warned that a shortage of them was contributing to white working-class boys struggling to keep up with girls.
Mary Curnock Cook, former chief executive of the university admissions service Ucas, said: “I can’t help wondering why we so readily accept that young women need strong female role models while nobody seems ready to accept that boys need strong male role models. Until this trend is reversed, I fear we’ll continue to see boys underperforming in schools.”
The Commons education committee is holding an inquiry into results achieved by white working-class pupils. White boys who have free school meals because of low family income achieve an average score of 28.5 points in their eight best GCSEs, with a national average of 46.5 points.
The departure of male teachers is also likely to worsen shortages in specialist subjects such as maths and physics as the number of male graduates in the disciplines heavily outnumbers that of women.
A research paper for the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think thank highlighted how teaching had become more female dominated, with the proportion of male secondary school teachers falling from 38 per cent in 2010 to 35.5 per cent last year. The proportion of male teachers in primary schools rose from 12.5 per cent to slightly more than 14 per cent in the 2010-15 period but the figure has stagnated at 14.1 per cent. There are about 220,000 teachers in state-funded primary and nursery schools in England and 205,000 in secondary schools with another 24,000 in specialist units.
The fall in male teachers was replicated in every region of England other than inner London. Men are least likely to go into teaching in the northeast, where across all schools, 24.4 per cent of teachers are male.
The trend is likely to have been caused by the freeze on the pay of teachers and other public sector staff imposed by the coalition government, the EPI said. A two-year freeze was followed by a cap of 1 per cent until 2018. The think tank highlighted an OECD study showing that men were more responsive to salaries than women when deciding whether to start teaching and said that teachers’ pay had fallen in real terms by 16 per cent over the decade.
More men have applied to become teachers this year, with the coronavirus pandemic prompting a big rise in applications, but the EPI noted than more male candidates applied late in the cycle and said that men were more likely to leave: 10.6 per cent of male teachers quit each year, compared with 9.8 per cent of women. The proportion of men in teaching from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds was 17 per cent, broadly reflecting that of the population, which is 16 per cent.
Ms Curnock Cook said the think tank’s report showed that “large areas of the country where the population is predominantly white have even fewer male teachers and these are also the areas contributing most to the under- performance of white boys in education”.
Joshua Fullard, senior researcher at the EPI, said: “Evidence suggests that when a teacher matches the background of their pupils, this can help to improve pupil outcomes.”
Girls outperform boys at every stage in England’s schools. By the end of primary, 70 per cent reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths compared with 60 per cent of boys (Greg Hurst writes).
This gap is evident throughout education. Last year 23.7 per cent of GCSEs sat by girls were awarded top grades of 7, 8 or 9 compared with 17.5 per cent by boys, and 56.6 per cent of young women were going to university but 44.1 per cent of young men.
Girls’ education is profoundly important and should be celebrated. But their success masks the underachievement at school by too many boys, especially those from poorer families.
The shortage of men in schools among teachers, teaching assistants and support staff may contribute to this. This means that boys can lack male role models at school, but it also has implications for behaviour.
There are too many cases in which boisterous games are discouraged or banned at break times, which disproportionately affects boys.
Teachers may also make curriculum choices that appeal to girls but are less engaging for boys, such as studying Jane Eyre in GCSE English literature instead of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Of course children may well have or develop interests that challenge gendered expectations. Having more male teachers, though, would encourage them to do so by choice not through lack of it.
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.