Jamie Wilson is the last of a dying breed – the only young man left working in a state-run nursery school in the country. Figures published yesterday by the General Teaching Council show the 23-year-old from Liverpool is the only male under 25 in England working with under-fives as a state school nursery teacher. They also highlighted the dearth of male role models for primary school pupils of any age.
A total of 28 per cent of the country's primary schools – teaching around 950,000 pupils – now have no male teachers.
Jamie, who works in a Merseyside children's centre, believes young children benefit from being taught by male as well as female teachers. He has been working with a project based at Edge Hill University in Lancashire aimed at raising awareness of the need for more men to work in early-years and primary school teaching.
Sadly, though, since he started, the number of men under 25 teaching boys in state nurseries has dwindled to just one – him. In all, there are 44 male nursery teachers teaching the under-fives.
Sue Palmer, an expert on literacy teaching who has written books such as 21st Century Boys and Toxic Childhood, is adamant young boys need a male role model at school.
"There are so many children who have no men around at home," she said. "For boys in particular that lack of a male role model can be hugely significant. For so many little boys, the only male role models they see are on television and they are macho and aggressive. As much as anything, it is about reading and understanding meaning and developing body language." She added: "People look at men funnily if they want to hang out with kids, so men say it wasn't worth the possible aggro because there's a general feeling you might be up to no good.
"It is very difficult to counter this culture. It's no longer about stranger danger because everybody is viewed suspiciously. They are guilty until proven innocent."
Jamie Wilson agrees: "Even in my first week at the children's centre I encouraged anxiety from a parent who was reluctant to leave their three-year-old in my care because I am a male within a female-dominated environment."
"There is no doubt that there is an acute lack of male teachers throughout or profession. For some young children I am the only male figure in their everyday lives and I feel that is important."
He said the Edge Hill project was also attempting to find out why there were sp few male early-years and primary school teachers.
Yesterday's figures showed the percentage of male teachers overall had slipped from just over 25 per cent to 24.9 per cent. In primary schools, it remains just over 12 per cent. The total number of state-registered teachers rose by almost 3 per cent to more than 560,000.
Sue Palmer had another reason for encouraging more men into the profession. "They lighten the atmosphere in the staff room," she said. "An entirely female staff room can get very intense."Reuse content