by Zoe Chamberlain, Lifestyle Editor

Will doesn’t sit at his desk, he prefers sitting on it.

His teacher lets him. She knows that chastising the teenager will only lead to more disruption. And besides, he is at least taking part in the lesson.

In another classroom, Joel and Liam have gone missing after slipping out of school to buy cigarettes.

Meanwhile, Tom is screeching at his teacher that she doesn’t understand him. With that amount of noise, it’s doubtful that she does.

But a more disturbing and fundamental breakdown in communication could be at play here, at what could be a typical Midland secondary school.

All of the boys are from broken homes. No fathers, and few male role models in their lives.

A Sunday Mercury investigation has found that only one in four teachers in Midland primary and secondary schools is male.

And experts say the shortage is leading to a huge rise in anti-social behaviour amongst boys.

Clova Court, inclusion manager at Dartmouth High School in Great Barr, believes the uneven divide between male and female teachers is causing serious, far-reaching disruption – both inside and outside the classroom.

“The lack of male teachers in our schools is having a great impact,” said former Olympic heptathlete Clova, 47.

“The dynamic isn’t right. There needs to be an equal balance between male and female teachers.

“Otherwise the results can be very worrying indeed.”

In Sandwell alone, the ratio of male to female teachers has plummeted from 59 per cent in 1999 to just 27 per cent today.

Levels of male teachers have also dropped in most other Midland schools.

Alarmingly, the fall has coincided with an explosion in ASBOs being issued against Midland kids. Around 1,600 were issued across the region in almost the same period.

By the time schoolboys come to see Clova, they are also close to exclusion. Many lack any type of father figure in their lives.

She said: “If there is no father figure at home and none at school, you’re going to have the kick-off.

“If there is no-one to instil discipline, rules and boundaries, these boys are likely to be going out doing what the hell they like – and the police will inevitably have to get involved.

“Had there been someone there saying ‘this is what we do and don’t do’, or if they had someone to talk to, this might not happen.

“There are a lot of strong women out there who will not stand any nonsense.

“But many boys do not want to talk to a woman about their problems and issues.

“Sometimes a boy will do well with a male teacher and not a female teacher. It’s not that he’s being rude or difficult. It’s just that the connection between the two males is better.

“My grandmother used to say it’s a whole community that looks after a child – the parents, carers, school teachers, learning mentors.

“Everyone has that little role to play, both women and men.”

So why are fewer men going into teaching?

Tony Pearce, Midlands spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said: “Some men are put off from working amongst children because of the possibility of false allegations of child abuse being brought against them.

“In this environment, men are open to these sorts of allegations.

“Salary also has something to do with it as levels of pay are still of more concern to men than women.

“What we should be doing is emphasizing the positive aspects of working with children and the Government should take on board our campaign to improve pay for teachers.”

He added: “The lack of male role models in schools is having a great effect. The underachievement amongst large proportions of boys has to have something to do with this.

“And the problem is self-perpetuating. Boys are lacking role models because there are so few men in schools and so they are not likely to see teaching as a career.

“If a school has few male members of staff, we would suggest they should look at ways of taking positive action to encourage more men to take those jobs.”