'There has got to be a generational change' - New data reveals fifth of Suffolk schools have no male teachers
PUBLISHED: 07:30 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:38 26 February 2019
New figures reveal one in five Suffolk schools have no male teachers - raising questions over a lack of role models for boys in early education.
An investigation by this newspaper has revealed a huge disparity in the number of male and female teachers at schools across the county.
New analysis of figures from the Department for Education (DfE) shows men make up just 21% of teachers and 3% of teaching assistants in Suffolk – while one in five schools employ no male teachers whatsoever.
The data, from the 2017 school workforce census, shows the greatest disparity is at primary schools, where fewer than one in seven teachers and just 0.9% of teaching assistants are male.
This is in stark contrast to secondary schools, where men make up 39% of teachers and 17% of teaching assistants.
‘There is a lot to be said for having positive male role models’
Craig D’Cunha, headteacher at Chantry Academy in Ipswich, said the “real challenge” exists at primary schools – where there tends to be a significant lack of male teachers.
“It is about getting boys interested in learning from the early ages,” he said.
“That is the key area to have more male role models, in primary schools.”
The best way for boys to understand “it is okay to be more active [...] and also to sit down and do the reading” is “to see other males doing that,” he said.
Mr D’Cunha, who still teaches as part of his role, said education is often wrongly shunned as a “terrible profession”, which – coupled with a lack of male role models in primary schools – may put boys off the job.
“It is actually a great profession,” Mr D’Cunha said.
“It is a fantastic job. The difference we make to individuals’ lives – there is nothing more rewarding.
“Boys should become teachers. There is no reason why not.
“What we have got to do is ensure they have the opportunities to make sure they have their success recognised.
“There has got to be a generational change here. It is going to take a while.”
While he argued the gender of staff in both primary and secondary schools “shouldn’t matter”, as both men and women are capable of being excellent teachers, Mr D’Cunha said there is “a lot to be said for having some positive male role models in boys’ lives”, especially those which promote learning in a way that encourages young men to return to education.
Ex-teacher: ‘I could not recommend it as a long term career’
Graham White, spokesman for the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said he believes the imbalance is founded in poor pay, pensions and work-life balance for all teachers, making the profession an unattractive option, as well as a stigma attached to men adopting “caring” roles.
“The figures do not surprise me,” he said.
“I taught for nearly 40 years and it is with regret that based on current pay, pension, workload, work-life balance and this government’s education policy, I could not recommend it as a long term career.
“Teaching is often seen as a ‘caring’ profession so that may attract females, but there is absolutely no reason why males are not as caring.”
He added that men are able to take on senior roles such as headteachers, deputy heads or heads of faculties because they are less likely to take career breaks for family reasons, while women often feel they need to work more flexible hours.
“Males are less likely to work part-time as they tend not to look after children at home,” he said.
“Females are more likely to be teaching assistants to fit in around family/children.”
Mr White said it would be “very good” to see more women in senior teaching roles, especially in secondary schools.
In the meantime, he said men need greater motivation to get into teaching.
“If we wish to see more male role models in teaching then we need to make the job more attractive – pay, pension, workload, and work-life balance,” he said.
“It would also help if teachers were allowed to use their professional judgment rather than have to conform to government diktat. Teaching used to be less ‘drill and kill’, ‘teach to the test’, ‘exam factory’ orientated, which did then attract graduates into teaching as a long term career.
“Teaching is not as attractive as it used to be.”
Where is the greatest imbalance?
Close analysis of the DfE data shows a stark contrast between the proportion at male teachers at primary and secondary schools, as well as local authority (LA) schools and academies.
On average, just 13% of teachers at Suffolk primaries are male, compared with 39% at secondary schools.
Meanwhile, men make up just short of 15% of teachers at LA schools, compared with an equivalent of 25%, or one in four, at academies.
The correlation can partly be explained by the fact the majority of remaining LA schools in Suffolk are primaries – where the proportion of male teachers tends to be much lower.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the authority has “no role” in the recruitment of teachers to its schools, with all decisions lying instead with governors and school leaders.
This is despite the fact the council advertises a service called ‘Teach Suffolk’ on its website, which claims to specialise in “teacher recruitment and routes into teaching”.
The spokeswoman added: “The council’s aspiration is that all children have a great education delivered by excellent teachers and we support schools in recruiting the best candidates to fill teaching positions in the county.”
Overall, Suffolk’s gender balance lags behind the national average – with men making up 21% of teachers in this county, compared to 26% nationwide.
The data excludes values that have been ‘suppressed’ by the DfE for reasons of confidentiality.