By Tristan Stewart-Robertson -

More men are applying to be primary school teachers but male role models in early education remain stubbornly low, according to new figures.

At Dundee University, applications from men for courses are up by almost a quarter compared to 2008-09 while they are up by 12.3 per cent at the University of Aberdeen.

While the total number of registered male teachers in primary schools has risen by almost 600 in the past six years, they still account for just 7.6 per cent.

In secondary schools, the number of male teachers has dropped by 1,000, but make up 37.3 per cent of the total teaching population.

The number of men studying for a BEd for primary education at Glasgow University has gone up 15.4 per cent since 2008-09, but still account for just 10 per cent of the total student body.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said she believed the dominance of women in teaching in primary schools was starting to shift.

“This is an encouraging trend and can only be good for youngsters,” she said.

“I think many parents wish there was a better gender balance within the primary sector, especially when, as a society, we have so many youngsters growing up without men in their household.

“For some, a male teacher is one of the most significant male role models a child will have contact with.

“It’s very gender stereotyping that only women can teach at the primary level. Men are just as capable.

“All education is about nurturing the individual – that’s not gender specific.”

Professor Pete Stollery, head of the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Recent research has shown how crucial it is that we have more male teachers in the primary classroom, where one of the benefits is that they act as role models, particularly for male pupils.”

Glasgow City Council, the country’s most populous authority, said a quarter of its probationary teachers this year were men.

A spokeswoman for the General Teaching Council of Scotland said: “The GTCS is strongly supportive of getting more men into teaching.

“While the vast majority of teachers, regardless of gender, provide a first class learning experience to our children and young people, there is no doubt that men provide a different and valuable role model for children.

“While this is not within the remit of GTCS, we support government and other efforts to encourage more males into teaching both in primary and secondary.”

The Scottish Government said it did not focus on gender in recruiting teachers.

A spokesman said: “International research from 2008 suggests attracting the best qualified and motivated people into teaching, irrespective of gender, should be the focus of teacher recruitment. This is an approach we would support.”

Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities were unable to provide application numbers for the upcoming academic year.

Commentators cited the need for more positive male role models in the wake of last month’s rioting in England.

Case study: Many boys respond well to having a ‘Sir’ in the classroom

VINNY Ferguson was persuaded to become a primary school teacher by his father, who had also chosen the career.

He taught in the Possilpark area of Glasgow before moving this year to the specialist Hazelwood School. Of 60 staff, just four are men.

The 25-year-old said: “You need to be very empathic, which you could say a lot of men are not. You need to be sensitive, expressive and approachable.

” ‘Empathy’ and ‘sensitivity’ can sound like feminine terms but I find children of both sexes respond well – you just talk to them normally. From speaking to parents, having male role models is something that comes up a lot.

“Many boys in particular respond well to having a male in the classroom. I think the stigma against men being teachers is changing. Quite a few schools and headteachers are keen to get men in. Heads see the positive side of it and the chance for children to have a role model, and they see that children of both sexes respond to males.”