Number of male teachers plummets to new low
THE number of male teachers in NSW public schools has plummeted to an alarming new low from which experts fear it may never recover.
The situation has got so dire the NSW Department of Education will establish a "male teacher employee network" within schools and conduct research into the barriers and challenges male teachers face in their job.
The proportion of men in primary schools has plunged from 19.5 per cent of the teaching workforce in 2012 to 17.5 per cent last year, latest department statistics reveal.
Similarly the number of males in public high schools fell from 43.5 per cent in 2012 to 39.7 per cent last year.
The man drought is most pronounced in Western Sydney primary schools, where just 14.6 per cent of males make up the teaching workforce, down from 16.8 per cent.
Experts fear that the lack of male role models in the classroom will deter boys from pursuing a career in teaching - meaning the numbers will never recover.
"Because the number of males has decreased, boys in the classroom don't see males teaching them and very subconsciously they think, males don't teach," said boys education expert Ian Lillico.
"It is not just boys who need male teachers; it is girls who need them as well, they need to see men can be nurturing."
Macquarie University educational studies tertiary supervisor Kevin McGrath said male teachers were now "a token group in schools".
"When the representation is so low it becomes more and more difficult to reverse that sort of a trend," he said.
"In Western Sydney, when you have a small representation of males at 14 per cent, it can be really difficult to change perceptions around those groups. I can't see the trend reversing, it has existed for 50 years and the government isn't doing anything about it."
A department spokesman said it had a five year plan to combat the shortage of men.
"The five-year strategy includes … establishing a male teacher employee network to advise on motivations for teaching, experiences, barriers and challenges," she said.
Teaching is being shunned because men perceive it as a low status, low pay career and fear being called a paedophile.
UTS education lecturer Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn said men may be drawn away from the profession because they were afraid others would be suspicious of their seeking employment with children.
"It is seen as a nurturing profession. A lot of men have those qualities but are afraid to display them," she said.
"Men may get the wrong message, however, that it's not OK for them to show children affection. Teachers need to be warm and caring towards their students."
NSW Secondary Principal Council President Chris Presland said the problem was more pronounced in primary schools. "It is important that kids at that young age have the opportunity to see role models from female and male perspectives," he said.