Male teach­ers worry about work­ing at pri­mary schools

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Laura Fitz­Patrick

MEN are rul­ing out be­com­ing pri­mary school teach­ers be­cause they fear be­ing viewed with sus­pi­cion for want­ing to work with chil­dren, the head of an ed­u­ca­tion char­ity has said.

Teach­ers, unions and char­i­ties are urg­ing young men to pay less at­ten­tion to tra­di­tional stereo­types and sign up to work with younger chil­dren.

Ju­lian Stan­ley, a for­mer teacher and now chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ed­u­ca­tion Sup­port Part­ner­ship, a char­ity pro­vid­ing well­be­ing sup­port to ed­u­ca­tion staff, said: “The con­cern of safe­guard­ing is huge for men. It’s about whether you can work with chil­dren and be viewed with sus­pi­cion. We have to stick to care­ful rules but it doesn’t ex­clude you from cre­at­ing strong re­la­tion­ships.”

The num­ber of male pri­mary school­teach­ers is at an all-time low, with 15 per cent of nurs­ery and pri­mary school­teach­ers in Eng­land be­ing male.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint gen­eral sec­re­tary of the National Ed­u­ca­tion Union, blamed sex­ism. She said: “Men are put off by the idea that they’re sup­pos­edly not meant to work in jobs in­volv­ing chil­dren, which is old-fash­ioned think- ing that we need to move be­yond. Not ev­ery­one has what it takes to be a great pri­mary teacher, but whether you can do it isn’t to do with whether you’re male or fe­male.”

Ben King, 30, a Year 5 teacher at a Hor­sham pri­mary school, feels that although it is not of­ten spo­ken about, there is an un­der­ly­ing sus­pi­cion of men who teach in pri­mary schools.

“There are is­sues sur­round­ing safe­guard­ing which are not spo­ken about. For ex­am­ple, when girls get changed for PE I leave the room. We are taught to look out for signs of abuse like bruises when they get changed,” he said.

“I don’t feel com­fort­able do­ing that and they are su­per­vised by fe­male staff in­stead. The same goes for hug­ging a child who is hurt. I don’t think fe­male teach­ers have the same issue.”

Mr King at­tributes it to tra­di­tional per­cep­tions of what a pri­mary teacher looks like. He added: “It’s a so­ci­o­log­i­cal con­struct writ­ten into our so­ci­ety that men don’t teach in pri­mary schools.”

David Keytes, 29, who started teach­ing a Year 4 class in Sur­rey after eight years in sales, said he be­lieved boys need more role models to en­cour­age them into teach­ing.

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