"There are more than 4,250 schools in Britain where not a single male teacher can be found in the staff room."
Daily Mail, 17 July 2012
Statistics released this week by the Teaching Agency have revealed a notable increase in the number of male trainee primary school teachers in the past four years. This is an encouraging sign for those worried by the gender imbalance among teachers that has typically characterised primary education in Britain.
According to the research, in 2008/9 there were just 2,467 male primary school teachers (or 15 per cent of the total) yet in 2011/12 the number had increased to 3,743 (or 19 per cent of the total).
However, despite these increases, in today's Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn claimed that over 4,250 British schools still lack a male teacher, leaving thousands of children without a male role model in schools. So is this really the case?
Mr Littlejohn's article does not offer a source for his claim, however official statistics are available that shed light on the issue.
In September 2011, the General Teaching Council (GTC) for England published its Annual Digest of Statistics, collating the profiles of registered teachers in England.
This report offered insight into the number of English schools with no male teachers at the end of March 2010 and the end March 2011 respectively.
At the end of March 2010, 4,700 English primary schools and 6 English secondary schools were without a male teacher, and at the end of March 2011 the number of primary schools in this category had fallen to 4,569, while the number of secondary schools remained constant.
These figures are not too far removed from those offered by Mr Littlejohn. Considering that the number of male teachers has increased in recent years, it would be reasonable to hypothesise that the current (July 2012) number of schools with no male teachers may have declined from the March 2011 figure, although Mr Littlejohn's figure of 'more than 4,250' seems a reasonable estimate.
However there does remain a potential problem with Mr Littlejohn's claim, as it refers specifically to the number of British schools without a male teacher whereas the GTC's data refers to the number of English schools.
As such, it would appear that, although the figure of 4,250 might be a fair approximation of the number of English schools without a male teacher, it is likely to be an underestimate of the number of British schools in this situation.
It would appear that Mr Littlejohn's claim that there are more than 4,250 British schools without any male teachers is true — in English schools alone the number reported by the General Teaching Council was substantially above this estimate, and once Scottish and Welsh schools are factored into the mix the number could be substantially more.
However while the 4,250 figure might actually underestimate the situation in British schools as it currently stands, the Teaching Agency figures do at least show that the male proportion of primary school teachers is growing, so the figure may also only have a limited shelf-life.