Doing Being A Primary School Teacher: Does Gender Matter?
Think back to your early childhood days in primary school. Now I know for some of you this may be farther back than you may want to think about, but please bear with me. When you think of those care-free days, were you taught predominantly (or even totally) by females? Now, fast forward to today and think of who primarily teaches young children today. Has anything changed? Or do women still make up the majority of Britain’s primary school teaching workforce? In short, yes, they do. In the year 2015/2016 less than 13% of primary school teachers in the UK were male (DoE, 2016). There are various explanations that try to illuminate why this could be, the most frequent given that primary teaching is seen as a job only suitable for women. Characteristics such as ‘caring’ are seen as central to the role, and Western society mainly still envisions that it is only women, and not men, that possess such characteristics (MacDougall, 1997). The almost total absence of male teachers in many UK primary schools has led to the suggestion that the girls’ repeated better academic performance (in contrast to the underachievement of boys) may be a result of the feminisation of the teaching profession which has provided boys with too few male role models (Dee, 2007). One main area of discussion surrounds that of classroom management, namely discipline, with thoughts that more men are needed in order to enforce ‘tougher’ discipline, as women are stereotyped to have a more ‘liberal’ style (Martin and Yin 1997). Others however, disagree with this claim (Skelton et al, 2009), and indeed have found empirical evidence to the contrary, that women also use ‘tough’ discipline (Read, 2008). Such issues have led to an on-going debate about whether there is actually any need for more male primary school teachers at all (Carrington et al, 2007; Harrop and Swinson, 2011), whether they can actually bring anything different to teaching that women cannot offer and question what more male teachers would actually do for the children in terms of their academic achievement (Beaman, Wheldall, and Kemp, 2006; Carrington et al., 2008). One way to address the aforementioned questions is to explore how male and female primary school teachers actually interact with their students in the classroom.