Boys are back in town

• St Patrick’s Primary School teachers (from left) Steve Carrabs (phys ed/Yr 4), Chris Webster (Yr 6),  Creed Yorke (assistant principal), Owen Connelly (year 4) and David Hayden (early primary/drama) with students Tomas (7), Owen (9), Lilly (5), Henry (5), Lila (10) and Joe (8). Photo by Steve Grant

MALE primary school teachers have been described as an “endangered species” as their numbers continue to decline drastically across the nation, but a small Catholic school in the centre of Fremantle is bucking the trend.

St Patrick’s Primary School might be the only school in the country where there are slightly more male than female teachers.

St Patrick’s assistant principal Creed Yorke said while employing men was something the school considered in its recruitment plans, the current ratio of five male and four female teachers “kind of just worked out”.

Research has shown that teacher gender doesn’t necessarily have a big impact on grades, but Mr Yorke said there were other reasons having men around the school was beneficial.

“We are aware that some kids don’t have exposure to male role models until high school, particularly with divorce rates,” he said.

“I think males in these roles also understand boys a bit better.

“Generally boys don’t like to sit and do their work, and they learn much more through play.”

Mr Yorke said as a result of understanding this desire to move, he thinks male teachers have been more willing to give the boys “brain breaks”, particularly in the trickier subjects such as literacy.

He said six years ago the Barnett government initiated a working group to look into how more male teachers could be attracted into the workforce, but that fizzled out.

David Hayden is the school’s early childhood and performing arts teacher, and has been in classrooms for 30 years.

He’s noted the steady decline in male colleagues and for a while worked as a consultant trying to get universities to put more effort into making their courses more attractive to men.

“It’s not been considered the ‘right type’ for a guy, and it’s also about the fear factor of what they’ll face there, which is a bit sad,” Mr Hayden said.

He doesn’t think there’s any quick fixes, but can do his part by ensuring any prac teachers come away with a great experience.

Doctors Kevin McGrath and Penny Van Bergen published the 2017 research which coined the phrase “endangered” for male teachers.

“While some men (and women) may be deterred from teaching because it is perceived to have low salary and status, men also face social pressures to conform to particular masculine ideals.

“And teaching is often seen as ‘women’s work’,” they wrote.

The pair called for a review of Australian workforce diversity policies, targeted scholarships, increasing salaries, publicity campaigns and for the education sector to look into industries which have successfully made dents in low female participation, such as STEM and business.

by STEVE GRANT

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