Exodus of White Male Teachers Prompts Role Model Concerns

October 19, 2020 Updated: October 19, 2020

The number of male teachers in England has continued to drop, according to new figures, driven by an exodus of white teachers.

Published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) on Oct. 18, the data shows the rise in male primary school teachers at the start of the decade has now fizzled out.

Around one in three teaching graduates are male, and they are also more likely to leave the profession than women.

The EPI suggests that the decline is likely caused by the public sector pay freeze under the coalition government a decade ago. “Evidence from the UK shows that men’s decision to go into teaching tends to be more responsive to wages than females,” according to the report.

More men are still found in senior positions in schools and education.

The proportion of non-white secondary male teachers has increased from 12 percent to 18 percent—an increase of 50 percent.

That’s good news for minority pupils, according to the EPI.

However, a drop in white male teachers could conversely affect struggling white pupils looking for a role model.

“The fall in the number of male teachers has been driven by white males,” said the EPI report. “Indeed, the number of white male secondary school teachers has fallen by over 12,800 since 2010, a fall of 17 percent.”

The EPI said that the exodus of white men from the profession could be a concern for white working-class boys—one of the worst-performing groups of children.

They cited an American study which said that “pupils have higher learning outcomes when they have ‘a teacher like me’ in the classroom.”

White pupils from poor backgrounds, on average, score lower in their GCSEs than other ethnicities, especially boys. Only Roma and Irish travelers perform worse.

The EPI says that the government needs to recruit more men to boost the shortage of teachers in subjects like maths and physics, and should offer top-up payments to entice them.

“The pool of potential subject specific teachers is predominately male,” said the EPI. “For example, male graduates outnumber female graduates in physics four to one and maths two to one.”

Mary Curnock Cook, former chief executive of the university admissions service UCAS, told The Times of London, “I can’t help wondering why we so readily accept that young women need strong female role models while nobody seems ready to accept that boys need strong male role models.”

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at Exeter University, told The Telegraph that the decline could be due to a perception of teaching as a low-status job.

He said, “Sadly, the teaching profession suffers from low pay, low social status, and stereotypes that it’s female work—all of which drive the under-representation of males.”

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