by Catherine Mary Evans, Western Mail - Wales, UK

Parents want more men to work in nurseries and primary schools so youngsters can have access to male role models from an early age, according to two new reports.

Research by the Children’s Workforce Development Council found that lone parents were particularly keen to see men involved in early years childcare.

A survey of more than 1,000 parents of young children found that 55% wanted a male childcare worker for their nursery-aged child, rising to two thirds among single parents.

Many of those questioned said they believed boys behaved better for a male teacher, adding it was important for boys to have a role model to look up to.

Three out of five of those surveyed said no men were employed at the nursery or other provider of early years childcare that their child attends.

Thom Crabbe, the council’s development manager, urged more men to consider working in early years childcare, adding: “Parents are right to want to see more men working in early years. It is important that during the crucial first five years of a child’s life they have quality contact with both male and female role models.

“Working with under-fives is definitely a job for the boys. It’s one that requires someone who is patient, creative and bright and one which gives back major rewards. Male workers will get to work in a challenging, stimulating environment with like-minded professionals dedicated to the development of children with positive benefits to babies, toddlers and young children to families and communities.”

Research by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) also reveals that male primary school teachers have acted as fundamental role models to one in two men (48%).

More than 800 men were surveyed in the TDA’s study to uncover the impact of male primary school teachers in boys’ development. The research revealed that 35% of men felt that having a male primary teacher challenged them to work harder at school and 22% believed that male primary teachers helped build their confidence while they were young.

The men surveyed reported that they were more likely to approach male teachers with issues of bullying (50%), problems at home (29%) and questions about puberty (24%).

The news comes as the deadline for applications for primary school teacher training looms, with jobseekers having less than eight weeks to apply for postgraduate training courses next year.

Dr Tanya Byron, consultant clinical psychologist, author and broadcaster (Little Angels, House of Tiny Tearaways, BBC TV) agrees that male primary school teachers are vital in providing positive male role models for young boys.

“Almost half the men surveyed in this research said that male primary teachers are important role models where adult male figures are absent in the home lives of children,” she said.

“The need for strong male role models as constants in the lives of young children is more apparent than ever in light of the increasing numbers of children experiencing breakdown of the traditional family unit, growing up in single parent families or not having a male figure at home.

“Male primary school teachers can often be stable and reliable figures in the lives of the children that they teach. They inspire children to feel more confident, to work harder and to behave better.”

Men currently account for just 13% of registered primary school teachers, according to recent figures released by the General Teaching Council. However, the numbers of male primary trainee teachers has steadily been increasing by around one percentage point year on year.

TDA chief executive Graham Holley said: “It is telling that more than one in 10 men would consider a teaching career if they felt they could improve the life chances of young boys, or if they heard positive things about male teachers from friends, family or the media.

“Not everyone can be a sports star or TV star, but they can be a star in the classroom and help inspire thousands of young minds.

“We need to celebrate the important roles both male and female teachers play in schools, and work to redress the gender balance to ensure the healthy development of children today.”