Friday 10 September 2010

A World without Men

Gareth Malone - geeky choirmaster and motivator extraordinaire - launched his latest venture on BBC2 last night. This time he's tackling the sad fact that boys fall way behind girls in primary schools these days, especially in reading and writing. He's going to be giving special boy-friendly lessons to a group of lads in an Essex primary school - and no doubt his efforts will improve their plight. But what a sad plight it is - at school these boys clearly feel themselves in a largely alien world, one where they can only fail, because the whole setup plays to the strengths of the girls. Gareth will be giving them something more tailored to their need for outdoor activity, competition and risk-taking - and from the get-go they seem to thrive on it. But what is most striking about their world, in school and, apparently, out - and what is never actually mentioned - is that there are virtually no men anywhere. Occasionally a father is glimpsed in the background, but there's no sign of a male teacher, or a man in any capacity, at the school. It's a female world. Not only do these boys have no male role models - some of them seem to have no men at all in their lives. Also striking is that several of the all-female staff who you would have assumed were classroom assistants or teenagers on work experience are actually fully qualified teachers - and estuary English is spoken throughout the school, from the head(mistress, natch) down. This is all rather dispiriting to those of us who remember when teachers came in two sexes and gave us something to aspire to, some kind of role model - oh and they also taught us stuff, but that's another matter. Meanwhile, perhaps there's some hope for the boys in Gove's latest wheeze...


  1. I've no idea what the stats are on the male:female ratio amongst teachers (I imagine it's especially female-heavy in primary schools), but could it be that the feminine-friendly set-up of modern education puts men off teaching as much as it puts boys off school?

    My father spent 20 years as a primary school teacher, having previously been in the merchant navy. In his early years he regularly took kids rock-climbing and abseiling and whatnot. By the time he retired, Elf and Safety had rendered virtually all such outings much more trouble than they were worth.

  2. Yes, and a few years later the criminal justice system is left to pick up the pieces all too often. I think what I did at school - a lot of sailing and quite a lot of running around on the Quantocks with .303 rifles as part of the cadet force stuff. The school armoury even had a Bren gun. You can imagine what health and safety would make of that these days.

    I don't think anyone has a good answer, as yet. To be fair, really good teachers have always been rare as hen's teeth, I'd suggest. It's about inspiring people to give far more than they thought they ever could, to go beyond themselves, a very rare gift.

  3. I think the producers missed a trick in not getting Elberry to play Gareth Malone's role.

  4. I write about a son, but...are we sure we want to encourage competitiveness and risk-taking? In boys who will be teens in a few years? Not sure where the line is between playing to their strengths and manipulating....

  5. My daughter just started Year 2, and I was surprised to learn she had a male teacher. Especially in a small village. I didn't think that happened much here, and it's pretty much unknown in the States.

  6. Male Primary School Teachers are not happy with their Job in Primary School. But Why they are not happy with their Primary School Job.Is Low Salary the only reason?

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