Hundreds more men are needed to train as primary school teachers this year, and will be sought as part of a new drive launched by the Teacher Training Agency.
Many would-be male primary teachers are dropping out of training or leaving the profession because they feel isolated in schools where nearly all the staff are female, Ralph Tabberer, the agency's chief executive, says.
The agency has set itself new targets for boosting the number of male trainees, which stood at only 1,589 last year, compared with 10,823 women wanting to teach primary pupils.
Men make up only 13 per cent of primary school staff but the agency hopes to increase this to one in five by 2005 as a way of providing more positive male role models for the youngest children.
Many experts believe that increasing the number of men in primary schools will increase the academic achievements of boys, who respond better to male role models.
"Buddy" schemes are to be introduced to stop the drain of male staff from primary schools by creating networks of male staff who can share experiences of being a minority in a largely female environment.
Mr Tabberer admitted that previous drives to recruit more male trainees had failed to reach their targets over the past two years.
Earlier campaigns had been directed at men by "talking up" training bursaries, salaries and career prospects because research showed those things mattered more to men, whereas women were more attracted by the idea of job satisfaction and making a difference to society. "The evidence from re-search suggests that men are more concerned about the extrinsic rewards," Mr Tabberer said.
The campaigns have seen some success in encouraging men to join teacher training courses and this marketing will continue. But Mr Tabberer added that the latest statistics revealed men were now more likely to drop out of their courses than female students, possibly because male trainees were less prepared for the realities of the job or simply felt isolated.
The agency will encourage men to apply to courses earlier in the year. Research suggests that male trainees apply to join courses much later and so restrict their own choice of schools and training.
Stephen Timms, the School Standards minister, supported the scheme but highlighted the challenge facing the agency because of the current scarcity of male staff. He said: "I think it is important that boys in primary schools have male role models and hence we have the quite demanding targets that the agency has set for increasing the number from its current very low level."
Mr Timms also announced that from now on, the best schools would be expected to help to train the next generation of teachers. Every school awarded "beacon" status must be involved in initial teacher training from September and ministers are considering how specialist schools can be encouraged to help to train teachers.
The agency has 32,000 training places available in September, an increase of 6 per cent on last year.Reuse content