by Fionnuala Jones - NewTalk 106-108fm

This is despite only 50% of women acting as principals in primary schools

Ireland continues to have more female teachers than male, according to new statistics released by the EU.

The figures, released in support of World Teachers’ Day, show that 87 per cent of primary school teachers here are female while 71 per cent of positions in secondary schools were held by women.

Despite this large majority, a little over 50 per cent of women act as principals within primary schools.

Lithuania leads in the EU within the primary sector, with 97 per cent of teaching positions filled by women. Latvia, with 83 per cent, has the most female teachers within secondary schools.

Ruth Deasy of the EU Commission says the teaching profession in Ireland is dominated by women.

Niamh Jones, a secondary school teacher in St. Mary’s High School in Midleton, Cork, put the high figures down to men aiming for higher positions within the field.

“There are more men in management systems in higher positions, so while they may not be teaching, they may be acting as principals,” she said, “Also, it’s possible that women are more emotionally intelligent, and are better equipped at dealing with students’ growing number of emotional needs.

“In 1961, nearly 40pc of primary teachers were male. Today it is below 15pc.”

A 2006 report from the Department of Education and Skills listed the reasons for men not pursing teaching roles as the stereotyping of primary teaching as a feminine role, the long pay scale, limited opportunities for promotion, and poor Irish results by boys in the Leaving Certificate.

A charity in England has also come out in support of more male teachers.

Teach First, which recruits and places top graduates in schools serving low-income communities, says the lack of men entering the profession has resulted in an untapped resource.

It says children and young people need access to committed, talented and knowledgeable individuals from a range of backgrounds.

“It is a real loss that the profession is missing out on talented classroom leaders because a huge pool of people are being put off by misconceptions about teaching,” Brett Wigdortz, founder and chief executive of Teach First, said.