by Katrina Jones - Australia

Where have all the male school teachers gone? Figures obtained by The Bulletin reveal there has been a consistent decline in male teachers across the Gold Coast region, with females outnumbering males by almost four to one in the classroom.

Poor salary and a negative perception of the industry has been blamed for the drop in the number of males taking up teaching.

Since 2003, there has been nearly a 2 per cent decrease in the number of full-time male state school teachers — from 29.1 per cent to 27.2 per cent.

But figures reveal males still dominate the hierarchy in teaching with just 53 female state school principals in the south coast region compared with 80 males.

Queensland Teachers Union President Steve Ryan highlighted two main reasons for the dearth of male teachers.

“The level of salary to attract particularly males to the teaching workforce is very low,” he said.

“Males tend to look at engineering and computer work because there is more money.”

Mr Ryan said the salary for a beginner teacher was about $48,000 and ranged up to $72,000 for senior teachers.

“Then you’ve got a principal of large school of about 1000 kids who would be on something like $100,000 with probably more than 150 staff.

“The thing is, if you were running a company of that size you’d be on much more.”

Mr Ryan said the other issue was that male teachers felt ‘very vulnerable’.

“The ongoing negative reports and emphasis on pedophiles and sexual assaults gives the job a bad name,” he said. “For males there’s a problem if a little Grade 1 kid comes up and grabs them on the leg.

“It’s got to be about changing the attractiveness of the profession and the perception, because right now people think you can’t be a male in the teaching profession because allegations can be made against you.”

Mr Ryan said increases in the quality of people entering the teaching profession was an essential step to changing the industry’s image.

“We’d like to see more of the higher OP people going through because it’s important to have good quality teachers,” he said.

“We need to have this perception that this is a rewarding career.”

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the department actively promoted teaching, particularly for primary schools where there were fewer male teachers.

“Positive male teacher role models are very important, both in terms of educational and social impacts and in demonstrating to our students that teaching is a vital and rewarding profession,” she said.

“The issue of male teachers requires particular attention and is one of the challenges facing the department.”

Education Queensland said the proportion of male primary school teachers was about 18 per cent, about 40 per cent at secondary schools and 19 per cent in special education.

The gender breakdown of staff in all of the classified teaching positions in the south coast region including principals, deputy principals, heads of department, heads of special education services and heads of curriculum is 440 female compared to 267 male.

In a bid to increase male teacher numbers, the department instigated a Male Teachers’ Strategy which it conducted between 2002 and 2005.

The department said Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre data indicated an improvement in the number of males seeking teaching qualifications.

“Since 2002, the number of males enrolling in an education course has increased significantly by 365 (49.8 per cent),” said the spokeswoman.

But local universities enrolments do not reflect this figure.

Bond University reported nine males and 31 females were currently enrolled in education courses.

At Griffith University there are 1082 males out of 4205 students studying education this year.