by Colin Coyle - The Sunday Times

Almost 40% of primary schools now have no male teachers on their staff. New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show 1,238 of the state’s 3,248 national schools have an all-female line-up in the classroom.

The revelation means that the Department of Education’s expensive efforts to attract men into primary school teaching have been a failure so far. Many children are now educated exclusively by women as the teaching profession becomes increasingly feminised.

Three years ago the department launched an advertising campaign to encourage more men into the profession.

It spent 80,000 Euros promoting the rewards of teaching, focusing on teachers’ work/life balance, their value to society and job security. Now men account for only 15.4% of primary school teachers, down from 19.7% in 2001.

Matt Hume, principal of St Joseph’s boys’ school in Terenure, Dublin, which bucks the trend by having a staff of 40% men and 60% women, said it is important for boys to have male teachers as role models, particularly in areas where they may not have otherpositive male role models in their lives. “Another problem is that if boys don’t see male teachers in schools, they’re unlikely to pursue a career in teaching themselves,” he said.

The department has defended its efforts to encourage more men into primary school teaching, arguing that the percentage of male students in teacher training colleges is rising.

“Since the launch of the campaign the number of male student teachers entering the Bachelor of Education has risen from 124 in 2005 to 183 in 2008,” a spokesman said. “The number of male students entering the post-graduate [teacher training] course in 2008 was 105 out of 494.

“In December 2008, 16% of student teachers in the five state-funded Colleges of Education were male.”

Anthony Flynn, a sixth-class teacher at St Joseph’s, said: “You won’t get rich by teaching but it’s a hugely rewarding job. At primary level children haven’t grown cynical yet and you can still shape young minds.”

Flynn said the recession could encourage more men into teaching. “It may become more attractive to young men who were attracted to the higher money on offer in other sectors. Inspiring young people is just as challenging as anything on offer in the private sector,” he said.

Despite the low numbers of men, male teachers earn on average 8,000 Euros a year more than their female counterparts and are more likely to become principals. At present 41.8% of principals are men. The average male teacher earns 64,000 Euros per annum, while the average female earns 56,000 Euros.