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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Men 'worried to take up teaching'
Children playing in a school playground
Fewer men are going into the teaching profession
Fewer men in Northern Ireland are going into the teaching profession because they are worried they will be labelled as paedophiles, a union has said.

The Ulster Teachers Union has called on Education Minister Angela Smith to take steps to address the problem.

It said one college had reported that just over 10% of its students taking primary teaching courses were male.

The issue is being discussed at the union's annual conference, which began in Newcastle on Friday.

Audrey Stewart, president of the UTU, speculated on a number of factors which may be putting men off the profession.

"In the necessary climate of child protection do they see themselves at risk of being accused of being paedophiles and open to litigation?" she asked.

"Do they view teaching as a nurturing role, more applicable to women?"

She said men may feel the pay is not high enough or that they are likely to face hassle "from parents who know their rights, but not their responsibilities".

'Male role models'

Tom Moore, the only male teacher in Edenderry Primary in Banbridge, County Down, said many people viewed teaching children "as women's work".

He said it was a pity more men were not joining the teaching profession.

"You cannot give jobs to teachers in schools just because they are men - the best person should get the job," he said.

"But it would be nice to have a few more male role models in schools.

"I like a variety within teaching and I think they (female teachers) would like it as well - but if the people are not there then there is nothing much you can do about it."

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