Susie Byers, Head of Broomfield House School, says that we need more male teachers in our classrooms to help boys learn about respecting women

I have often wondered why there is such an imbalance between male and female teachers in our schools. Across the UK, in both independent and state schools, you will find this gender disparity, with women often outnumbering men, particularly in our prep and primary settings. 

In my 25 years as a teacher, I am yet to understand all the reasons for this gulf, but in light of #MeToo and Everyone’s Invited, it is something we must urgently address. For how do we guide our students into becoming young adults who respect each other, regardless of gender, if we can’t show it to them in their younger years? Role models matter – after all, you cannot be what you cannot see – particularly in those crucial younger years when attitudes are formed. Boys and girls need to be taught by men and women, and they need to see these same adults interacting with each other, respectfully, calmly and equally.  

Broomfield Copy
Broomfield House has a good ratio of male to female teachers – helping all children, especially boys, to relate to male role models

Our young men – yes, young women, too, but the spotlight is on boys right now – need to know how to conduct themselves. When does playground rough and tumble, particularly when directed at girls, become unwelcome? I have also heard boys describe their dad as the boss who goes to work, and their mum as the one who ‘just stays at home’. At 10 or 11 years old, as hormones kick in, boys can sometimes egg each other to behave in unthinking or inappropriate ways.

If we see any such behaviour, we will, of course, all step in and guide our boys. But it is particularly helpful at this age for boys to have male teachers, and crucial that they see how these teachers behave towards their female colleagues. Pre-teen boys need good role models to signpost how to regulate their own behaviour and navigate the teenage years ahead.  

“Boys listen to their female teachers, but men can often connect with them in a more meaningful way, as coach, mentor and sounding board”

At Broomfield House School, we have a good ratio of male to female teachers, ranging from our Year 1 TA to our Y3 and Y5 class teachers through to our Y6 TA math’s lead with QTS to our PE Teacher with LTA status and our Academic Deputy Head and Head of School. But we are not resting on our laurels. Like everyone, we were appalled by some of the Everyone’s Invited testimonies and have since rolled out a number of Respect Lessons for all of our Year 6 children, using our male teachers to talk to boys on a very real level. Our boys listen to their female teachers, but men can often connect with them in a more meaningful way, acting as coach, mentor and sounding board.

We are, admittedly, a well-resourced school, but that doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be a nationwide expectation. It’s too important for the next generation for us to fail at this. We have an amazing team, but this year I have been particularly proud of our male teachers. They have given something to our boys that is intangible yet powerful. When I lay my head on the pillow at night, I know we have done all we can to ensure our boys leave Broomfield with the knowledge and skills to treat the opposite sex with the respect they deserve.

Further reading: King Alfred Lower School on the importance of giving children time to think