Men account for only 17 per cent of primary school teachers and, if the decline continues at the present rate, the male primary teacher will have disappeared by the year 2010.
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, blamed pay for the feminisation of the profession. "Teaching is OK for a second income in a family but as a first income - which is what young men might more likely be looking for - it is extremely unattractive."
He gave the example of an unruly eight-year-old who was recently visited by a male educational psychologist. "He called her Miss. As far as this boy was concerned, maleness and education were obviously mutually exclusive." Figures published recently show that in 1996 only 8,262 men entered teacher training compared with 19,630 women.
Eighty eight per cent of primary classroom teachers are women and the proportion of female deputy heads and heads is rising.
Even in secondary schools, where men have traditionally outnumbered women, there are now 96,000 female teachers compared with 90,000 men.
Yesterday's survey, carried out by the Teacher Training Agency and the National Union of Teachers, comes at a time when the proportion of male teachers is falling steadily.
Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said the findings were worrying. "The poorer performance of boys compared with girls has in part been linked with a lack of male role models in early education."
The survey of more than 1,000 16-19-year-olds showed that twice as many girls as boys said they would be attracted to teaching by levels of pay. Both sexes found long holidays a very attractive part of the job and were most put off by the idea of unruly pupils.
There is growing concern about teacher recruitment. The Commons Select Committee on Education recently warned ministers that urgent action was needed. Applications for one-year postgraduate courses are down by 10 per cent. The drop for maths is 22 per cent and for physics 34 per cent.
John Howson, an educational consultant and former adviser to the Teacher Training Agency, said: "Women are going into teaching because they think it involves a lifestyle which includes quality time for children. All this talk from the Government about longer hours and teachers taking on literacy and numeracy summer schools in the holidays is a high-risk strategy."Reuse content