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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Male teachers 'do not help boys'
primary school classroom
Efforts have been made to recruit more male teachers
Having male teachers does not improve boys' levels of attainment in school, researchers say.

An assumption that male teachers would have a positive effect but that they were in short supply has concerned policymakers in a number of countries.

But after analysing test results, a team from Durham University found there was no noticeable difference.

However, having a female teacher had a positive effect on children's attitude to school, the team found.


Durham's Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre notes in its report that policymakers in countries such as Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Scotland and the United States have voiced concern about the under-representation of men in teaching, especially in primary or elementary schools.

As far as attitudes to school are concerned, our study indicates that women teachers seem to bring out the best in both sexes!
Durham report

It wanted to test "largely unsubstantiated claims" underpinning teacher recruitment: that matching teachers and pupils by gender has a positive effect on children's attainment levels and attitudes to education.

So the researchers analysed data relating to 8,978 boys and girls aged 11 in 413 classes in English primary schools.

The results were from a battery of tests taken in January 1998 in reading, maths, science, non-verbal ability and English vocabulary.

Additional information came from questionnaires about the children's attitudes to core areas of the curriculum and to school in general.

'Positive attitudes'

They found that the teacher's gender was unrelated to the attainment of the children.

"For the attitude measures there were no links with the gender of the teacher except when the outcome was attitudes to school.

"It was clear that children who had female teachers had more positive attitudes."

This was "statistically very significant".

"As far as attitudes to school are concerned, our study indicates that women teachers seem to bring out the best in both sexes," the report said.

They say their conclusions are "contrary to the political rhetoric often used to justify measures to bolster male recruitment to the profession".

There were limitations to their study but there was no evidence that male teachers tended to enhance boys' educational performance or female teachers enhanced girls' performance.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (formerly the Teacher Training Agency) said its campaign to recruit more men into primary schools was about ensuring the teaching population was more representative of the population rather than purely about raising achievement.

"It is why we also have campaigns to attract more disabled and minority ethnic people into the profession," a spokeswoman said.

"Our view is that, during the total time that pupils spend in schools, they should be taught by a wide range of teachers, who are representative of the society in which they live."

Role models, school improvement and the "gender gap": Do men bring out the best in boys and women the best in girls? by Bruce Carrington (University of Newcastle upon Tyne), Peter Tymms and Christine Merrell (University of Durham).

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