by Sarah Cassidy, Education Correspondent

Teaching is becoming an increasingly female-dominated profession with men making up fewer than one in four new recruits, official figures revealed yesterday.

Despite a multimillion-pound campaign to attract more men into teaching, the latest statistics reveal a widening gap between the sexes among those gaining teaching qualifications from universities and teacher training colleges.

In 2006-07, fewer than a quarter (23.8 per cent) of teaching qualifications were obtained by men, according to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency – the lowest figure in five years. This was a fall of 1.5 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile, between 2005-06 and 006-07, the number of women qualifying as teachers from higher education rose by 2 per cent, from 23,865 to 24,335, while the number of men fell 5.7 per cent, from 8,065 to 7,610.

The figures will be a blow to the Government, which has repeatedly tried to persuade men to train as teachers. The former education secretary Alan Johnson announced a drive to get more men into the profession in March 2007 after concern that just 16 per cent of teachers in primary schools, and 46 per cent in secondary schools, were male.

Mr Johnson said there was a need for more men in primary school teaching so they could provide role models, arguing: “Our schools should contain more male role models, such as ‘old boys’ or local boys made good.”

He said 84 per cent of primary teachers were women and while they were doing “an excellent job”, this meant many children from single parent families “reach the age of 11 without having any significant contact with a male role model”. However, a report produced for the Department for Children, Schools and Families in July last year suggested getting more male teachers in primary schools was “simplistic”, and that research found male teachers would treat boys more harshly than their female colleagues. The report cited studies indicating older pupils thought men were harsher than women to boys. “Male teachers were seen as treating boys more harshly, while female teachers treated boys and girls more equally,” it said. “This does suggest caution in simply asserting that having male role models in class is a good thing for boys.”

Schools are facing their worst staffing crisis in years, with a 23 per cent rise in unfilled teaching jobs, and 2,510 vacancies across the country.