I have been immobilised by flu, so my husband offered to pick up our daughter from nursery earlier last week.
Isabella looked worried: ‘Ooooooooh, I don’t know if they allow men in our school,’ she said as she shook her head.
I suddenly realised that both her (co-ed) nursery and the (co-ed) primary school it is attached to are men-free zones.
Where have all the male teachers gone?
Visit a primary school and you will spend hours playing ‘spot the man’. In vain, you will peer through the childish throng at break, among the feminine figures at the blackboard or the Technicolor cut-outs of the alphabet in the classroom: not a male in sight.
Only about 15 per cent of primary school teachers in England are men, this, despite the Training and Development Agency for Schools finding that 83 per cent of parents would like to see more men in primary teaching. How to recruit them, though, when any man who shows an interest in being with small children eight hours a day is viewed as suspect?
How to lure them when the school curriculum has been feminised, stressing the importance of collaborative and lateral thinking, and arts and languages over maths and sciences?
Analysis and competition, ‘masculine’ traits that a male teacher may be seen to bring to the academic mix, are dismissed as throwbacks to an aggressive and unproductive age.
The result is that primary school children of both sexes feel reserved, if not downright ill at ease, with a male figure of authority.
They have grown accustomed, with their all-female faculty, to have women barking orders at them; when it is a man doing so, they feel unsettled or even threatened. Obedience will be grudging and not automatic.