Where are all the male primary school teachers? 

According to the latest School Workforce data from the Department for Education (DfE), male primary school teachers appear to be a rare breed. 

In England’s 16,768 primary schools there are 3,240 with no male teachers on the payroll. 

Women also make up 75% of all classroom teachers with men – not just less likely to become teachers – but also more likely to leave the job than women.

  • Does the education sector need to be overly concerned or is the gender of teachers irrelevant? 
  • Are men concerned with receiving employment-related allegations before entering female dominated primary settings?
  • Is there an academic or emotional impact of primary-aged pupils having fewer interactions with male primary teachers?

At Edapt we support many primary school male teachers however we do have a higher proportion of female subscribers at both primary and secondary level. 

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Male primary school teachers: what does the research reveal?

Interestingly, there is a wide variety of educational research on this topic. We highlight a selection of findings below:

Do we need more male primary teachers? LJMU Research Online 

  • This research paper explains not only does a scrutiny of the empirical research indicate no proven correlation between the gender of teachers and the progression of children, pupils themselves do not consider the gender of their teacher to be a significant factor (Lahelma, (2000) Lingard et al (2002) in Carrington et al, 2008). Carrington et al analysed data from the Performance Indicators in Primary schools project (PIPs) to ascertain if there was a relationship between the gender of teachers and both the attainment of children and their attitude towards learning. Their results showed that the gender of the teacher was ‘unrelated [to] the attainment of the children’. These findings are supported by an international review on gender and education which indicates that the gender of teachers has little, if any, effect on the achievement of pupils (Sabbe and Aelterman, 2007). Significantly, given popular assumptions, it was clear that children who had female teachers had more positive attitudes to learning

Do we really need male teachers? AARE

  • This blog post explains that beyond faulty arguments for male teachers to improve boys’ academic outcomes or to act as role models and father figures, male teachers are needed in schools for psychological, social, organisational, and societal reasons. First, male and female teachers contribute to children’s gender knowledge. The presence of male teachers may be particularly important for some children – allowing them to observe men who are non-violent and whose interactions with women are positive. Limited visibility of male teachers, however, further perpetuates the view that teaching is a job better suited to women. Second, the presence of both male and female teachers in classrooms gives students the opportunity to learn from teachers who they perceive as being similar to themselves. This may promote feelings of school belonging, which can reduce disruptive behaviour. Additionally, for some students the presence of male teachers may support understandings of how to interact with adults who are different to themselves – promoting positive relationships between men and young children. Third, for schools, having a diverse workforce of teachers can enhance decision making processes and drive positive outcomes. People from different backgrounds may see the same problem in different ways, leading to innovative solutions. Workforce diversity has also been linked to improved performance and job satisfaction

Doing ‘being’ a primary school teacher: does gender matter? University of Hertfordshire

  • Dr Joanne McDowell conducted research in 5 Hertfordshire Primary schools, collecting data from both male and female teachers. One interesting finding is that both male and female teachers use what are stereotyped to be ‘masculine’ strategies (e.g. aggression; unmitigated orders and direct criticism) to carry out discipline (Read, 2008; see Mills and Mullany, 2011). However, both men and women (more so the men) also use ‘feminine’ or more ‘liberal’ styles (e.g. mitigated directives and criticism; use of positive sanctions; hinting via hedged statements) to discipline their students, often with great success. So both males and females often use stereotypical ‘gendered’ language style of ‘the other’.

Male primary school teachers: is there actually anything to be worried about?

From looking at a wide variety of research on the topic, I can briefly summarise:

  1. In terms of academic outcomes for pupils, the gender of teachers has little, if any, effect on achievement
  2. However, there is definitely a benefit of having a more diverse workforce in the primary sector for a range of social reasons and giving the the opportunity for pupils to experience positive male role models from an early age

It will be interesting to see if more males will enter the primary workforce in the next 10 years and if different initiatives will help. However, the trend could continue to self-perpetuate if men continue to pursue other careers.

If you are a male primary school teacher we would be interested to read your thoughts by commenting below.

Male primary school teachers: additional reading

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One thought on “Male primary school teachers: where are they?

  1. Alex Bundy says:

    I’m a private tutor (English/Latin/Music) and I think you’re close to the answer.

    I’m reluctant to become a classroom teacher because nobody can say anything good about men without puking in their mouths a little.

    People go where they feel welcome. Men are no different.

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