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Fears over lack of male teachers in Norfolk schools

PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:28 02 July 2010

Nigel Meager, a former artist who is now training as a teacher

Nigel Meager, a former artist who is now training as a teacher

Steve Downes

Thousands of Norfolk schoolchildren could have their life chances hampered because they are in schools without any male teachers.

Thousands of Norfolk schoolchildren could have their life chances hampered because they are in schools without any male teachers.

Figures reveal there are 117 county primary schools and nurseries with all-female teaching staff.

The news came as it emerged that the recession had prompted a rush of people vying to study for teaching qualifications at the University of East Anglia (UEA), with a 70pc increase on the previous year for some courses.

Many of the applicants are pursuing a career change, and tutors said they had noticed a marked increase in the “quality” of those hoping to launch a career in the classroom.

The figures about the number of schools with no male teachers were published by the government in response to a question from Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary.

They show the situation in January 2009, but Norfolk County Council released its updated figure for January this year.

Across England there were 4,226 nursery and primary schools and two secondaries with no male teachers at the beginning of 2009.

Norfolk has the seventh highest number, behind Lancashire, Derbyshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Surrey.

Eleanor Cockerton, primary admissions tutor at UEA's school of education and lifelong learning, said the absence of male role models could have an impact on some children.

She said: “Obviously we can't make a sweeping generalisation, but the more balanced an education children have the better for them.

“Having a male and a female perspective is a good idea. Lots of children grow up in all-female households and that is an issue.

“I think it possibly makes relationships more difficult. If a male role model is not part of your life it's not so easy to deal with things.”

She said the prevalence of women in primary school classrooms was “historical”, adding: “It was always seen as a nurturing role and the domain of women. It's taking quite a long time, especially at the younger age range, for men to see that they have a role to play.”

Shelagh Hutson, the county council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “Our aim is to recruit skilled and talented teachers to Norfolk, regardless of their gender. Both men and women make good teachers and are able to inspire and act as role models for boys and girls.

“In Norfolk the proportion of male teachers is slightly above the national average and we have strong male teachers in both our primary and secondary schools.

“While we recognise that male teachers can be good role models for both boys and girls, the quality and not the gender of an applicant will always be our first priority and the first priority of our schools.”

Sue Armes, UEA admissions administrator for post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) courses, said that by the end of November last year, there had been an “overwhelming” 70pc increase in the number of applicants for some of the teacher training courses.

Do you have an education story for the Evening News? Call reporter Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk

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