Fewer than one in eight Sheffield primary school teachers is a man – sparking new fears boys are not interacting with the male role models they need during their most formative years.
Only 215 men are currently teaching in city primaries, compared with 1,588 women – and the picture has barely changed over the last decade.
The profession as a whole is dominated by women, with females outnumbering males by three to one, but the imbalance is far greater in primaries.
Nationally almost 30 per cent of primaries have no men at all on their staff, meaning boys will not be taught by a male teacher until they reach secondary school.
The issue is concerning Sheffield education chiefs, who are working closely with teacher training tutors at Hallam University to promote primary schools to young male trainees.
The university held a three day taster programme this summer in conjunction with the local authority promoting primary phase careers.
A new scheme in universities is also targeting high quality graduates, especially men, to consider teaching as a career, especially in primaries.
Loxley Primary’s English co-ordinator James Marshall is the only male teacher in a school of more than 200 pupils.
One of his main tasks is to encourage boys to read and enjoy books – and finds bringing a male perspective to the job can be helpful.
“Boys are often not big readers and so I can form a bit of a role model for them,” he said.
“They like to read what interests them, like newspapers, football match reports and the like. Boys love football magazines and other current favourites are the Simpsons, Futurama and, of course, Doctor Who. So I try to encourage them with whatever gets them going.”
Some analysts feel men are put off teaching younger children as their intentions may be questioned, especially in nurseries and reception classes.
And a lack of men in primary schools may create a danger that boys may see education as a ‘sissy’ pursuit – although there is little hard evidence that boys’ results suffer due to the imbalance.
Kathryn Stallard, Sheffield secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said teaching overall was a largely female profession.
“Obviously we want children to have as broad an experience at school as possible and to have as many positive role models as possible,” she said.
“Attracting more young men into teaching would be good for schools and for the profession in general – there is a real debate about how we can do that. Ideally a school’s staff should reflect society as a whole.
“But I think this issue shows how little we have moved from the traditional view that primaries are somehow a more nurturing, female-oriented environment, while secondaries are a place for more focused academic learning – which is completely outdated,” Kathryn added.
Cabinet member for children’s services Coun Andrew Sangar said male role models were very important for boys, especially young boys.
“It is unfortunate that both locally and nationally there is a lack of male teaching staff at the key early years stage – whether this is in primary schools or even earlier, in nursery education,” he said.
“We would encourage men to go into this profession as it is imperative that young boys get good role models in all walks of life from as early a start as possible.”