Chris McGovern: Teaching needs more talented men

An investigation by The Times has confirmed that schools are finding it increasingly difficult to retain and to recruit head teachers. Eleven per cent of heads left their posts in 2014-15. While many simply moved school or retired, a growing number are resigning. The shortfall is becoming significant.

According to the union of which I was formerly a member, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), we face a current deficit of around 2000 to 3000 schools leaders – around 5 per cent of what our school system requires. In addition, there is the inevitable but unreported consequence that too many ‘second-rate’ applicants have been, and are being, appointed to ‘plug’ the vacancy gaps.

School governors see having someone in place as better than the alternative. This may be understandable but it delivers a potentially fatal blow to the quality of education on offer in many schools. It, also, undermines any real prospect of our education system ever matching the best around the world. The quality of school leadership really does matter that much.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the outgoing chief inspector, was right to suggest as much when he addressed a Sutton Trust conference in 2016: "We need head teachers in our secondary schools that are going to be really transformative leaders, and we have not got enough of them. We need battlers, we need bruisers, we need battle-axes who are going to fight the good fight and are absolutely determined to get high standards. We have got too many appeasers in our secondary schools who are prepared to put up with mediocrity."

Governments over the years have been reluctant to face up to the issue of teacher quality, let alone the quality of head teachers. It is, however, the key to everything, as the best education systems around the world make clear.

Where do we go from here? First of all, we must attract more of the brightest and the best graduates into teaching. We need to create a pool of talent from which to recruit future leaders.

Secondly, we need to redress the gender imbalance within the profession. Three out of four teachers are female and in primary schools it is close to nine out of ten. Male role models are important for children and, since men are twice as likely as women to seek headships, we need more men in schools if we are ever to find sufficient teachers with the desire and ability to become outstanding school leaders.

Thirdly, we need to make teaching a more attractive career choice by eradicating the infestation of political correctness and attendant bureaucracy that plagues our classrooms. Schools should not be knowledge-lite agencies for indoctrinating children in fashionable, and often highly politicised, social ideologies. They should, principally, be about learning, alongside the development of potential in sport and the arts. Increasingly, these days, however, the profession has become more focused on social work than on teaching. This is a huge ‘turn-off’ for many prospective recruits, especially male recruits, it seems.

Fourthly, we need to restore the whole-class teaching methods that underpin the success of schools in the Asia-Pacific region and that we ditched long ago. They are not only more successful than ‘child-centred’ methods in allowing pupils to learn, they are, also, much less stressful for teachers. An added bonus is that they allow classes to be a bit larger. Having slightly larger classes would reduce our teacher shortage and allow teachers and head teachers to be paid more. Because it necessitates a teaching method that works it would, also, raise standards. A win, win, situation!

If we wish to attract the most talented into teaching in general, and into headship, in particular, we need to make the job more attractive. In particular, it needs to be attractive to more men since they constitute half of the potential recruits and, at least, half the talent. The ‘solution’ is not so hard to work out and it is to be hoped that, one day, a UK government may find it.

Chris McGovern

  • Groan

    One observation I’d make over the past decade. In the local school ,in which my wife works and my three children were educates, there has been a marked increase in the number of part time teachers on the staff. The result being a marked increase in “covering” classes by other teachers or teaching assistants. Which can’t be good for the quality of education. I don’t know the data for schools but in most industries women are twice as likely to be “off sick” as men and of course are the vast majority of those with part time and “family friendly” hours. Thus one practical outcome of the diminishing proportion of male teachers is a fall in the consistency and quality of service. Quite apart from any “role model” issues.

    • Colkitto03

      Spot on, The NHS is also being hamstrung by the same issue you describe.

  • John Birch

    You missed out the behaviour of pupils being a main reason for the teacher crisis.
    Teaching is not about crowd control.
    Teaching in rural areas where the children are indigenous is still a good profession.
    Who in their right mind would look forward to going to work knowing another day of aggravation lay ahead.

    • Colkitto03

      ‘Teaching in rural areas where the children are indigenous is still a good profession’.
      This is so true. But you never see mention of these school on the six o’clock news.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Aren’t you ungratefully disdaining the enrichment bestowed upon us by our Tory, Labour and LibDem carers?

  • Nockthesheeple

    Last night, I looked at the website of the primary school I attended in the 1960. It appeared to have about three times the number of teachers we had then and legions of administrative posts that hadn’t used to be there.

    And the education will be worse. It was damaged beyond recognition during the insanity of the 1980s.

    • andre_michel

      Prompted by your post, I did the same.

      When I attended, there were no more than nine staff including the formidable Headmistress; today there are thirty-one.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      I attended a grammar school in Westminster in the 1950s.
      It had produced a Nobel prize-winning scientist in 1956 and doctors and professionals by the gross.
      It is now entirely black and suffered two rapes of white female teachers.
      Politicians send their daughters to the sister school on the other side of Victoria Street, so that they can say there is nothing wrong with state education. That school is almost entirely white, with token coloured pupils. No politician has ever sent their son to Westminster City School, since Lloyd George sent his son during the first world war.

  • Nockthesheeple

    We don’t want the most talented in teaching. We want them in engineering, medicine and finance.

    The teaching unions have corrupted public discourse in telling us that teaching is some sort of “profession” requiring paper qualification and high pay. There is no evidence for this. Children learn pretty naturally if you don’t get in the way too much.

    • Little Black Censored

      How would that work with learning the piano?

      • Owen_Morgan

        “How would that work with learning the piano?”

        The point is that the teacher needs to know enough of the subject to teach the subject. Additional teaching “qualifications”, effectively permits to teach, add nothing at all, apart from bureaucracy and indoctrination.

        How does a PGCE help anyone to play Bach’s 48, as a matter of interest?

      • Nockthesheeple

        That’s almost the worst example you could come up with. Legions of people learn the piano by ear. I know that us plodders needed a tutor but there’s no reason that parents shouldn’t pay for that if it’s a specialism. We spend too much effort cramming the not very bright.

      • Busy Mum

        I taught myself, as did all my sisters and my daughters….sufficiently well to entertain ourselves and accompany each other on recorders etc

    • Alan Llandrindod Wells

      The entire profession wants trimming.
      Start at 6 years like the Germans.
      Leave at 16 if you choose to.
      Shut most of the new silly universities.
      Turn some into Technical Colleges.
      Abolish the need for a degree to teach or nurse etc.

    • Alaric the Vis

      I used to speak on a course. I had no teaching qualifications, but I knew my subject inside out and filled my presentation with pictures and knowledge. Students almost always rated me as the best speaker on the course.

      I used to watch some of the ‘qualified’ teachers and often shook my head at the waffle and lack of real content.

  • British schools are now indoctrination centres where PC ideology is placed before traditional education. Someone (TCW?) should take a look at recent GCSE exam papers (particularly Religious Studies) and write a pamphlet/book on this abuse of children. Here is just one example, where under the guise of “religious studies” our lords and masters manage to encompass any number of PC shibboleths…

    We are living through the slow motion collapse of Western civilisation. Anyone who doubts how bad this is should ponder upon the NUT’s General Secretary, Christine Blower, who sits alongside terrorist sympathiser Azad Ali on the board of Unite Against Fascism. Ms Blower was also linked to the London Socialist Alliance.

    One fine day, I would like to see such people in court defending themselves against the perfectly reasonable accusation of child abuse.

    • Colkitto03

      I was back up in the Hebrides over new year and was discussing schooldays with friends. Back in the eighties in High School the ONLY thing ever discussed in RE classes was Christianity.
      Mind you in those days it was not uncommon to hear non Christians described as ‘heathens’ Thats probably changed!
      Highland region was the last place in Europe to stop using the belt (1986) but only because of EU regulation I believe.
      I guess that Highland region is still the lost non liberal part of the mainland UK but that culture is disappearing fast.

      • Busy Mum

        Until even the early ‘noughties’, our CofE primary only ever discussed Christianity and Judaism for RE, complying with the govt requirement to teach two major religions. After an OFSTED report saying the school (small, rural, 99%white) was wonderful except for the failure to be multicultural, the school was obliged to introduce all other religions on an equal footing. Its first move to comply was to hold an assembly by a visiting Imam, presumably recommended by OFSTED.
        I now regularly have to remind even the teachers what Christianity is all about….

        • Colkitto03

          keep up the good work!
          I also remember that in Primary school we said the Lords prayers at the start and end of each day. I doubt that still happens.

    • Hound_Of_Zeus

      When that day comes I hope the trial is televised.

    • andre_michel

      I’ve just had a quick look at your link to the CSE exam. Couldn’t see God mentioned once!

      • Exactly….

        • Busy Mum

          This is why we withdraw our children from all RE and PSHE lessons. Most parents either don’t know or don’t care what is going on.

        • TheRightToArmBears

          Diversity = white genocide

  • James Chilton

    I have read that one of the reasons why boys are falling behind in school, generally speaking, is because the “feminisation”of the education system is making them less willing to learn. About 75% of primary school teachers are women.

    However, using traditional methods and with a different “philosophy”, the women teachers I remember were very effective. Only a tiny number of children failed to learn to read and write and there were no “discipline” problems in the classroom they were unable to sort out.

    • Colkitto03

      Agree, i was taught by women primary teachers back in the seventies using traditional methods and they were excellent teachers. They were strict but I remember them both with great fondness..

    • Phil R

      I bet the children were 90% taught to read and write outside of school by mum and dad.
      Our 7 were. The school then takes credit……

      • TheRightToArmBears

        I grew up in Victoria and began infant school in 1946. Half the children came from Wellington Barracks’ married quarters. Half way through that first term I was awarded a copy of Peter Pan, shortened with many pictures, during a lesson. Later in the lesson I was told off for reading the book and not getting on with my work. Most of the children in that class could already read, taught by their parents.

        Bad old days? I don’t think so.

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    No man with any common sense would volunteer to be a teacher these days.

    • James Chilton

      I agree. There’s too much risk of being accused of “child abuse” for merely doing the job.

      • Demon Teddy Bear

        Almost 100% certainty. And in the absence of corporal punishment, discipline cannot be maintained in any serious way.

        • Greenlander

          As someone who suffered corporal punishment from wicked old biddies venting their frustrations out on me and my class mates, I wouldn’t want that power returned to them.

          • Alaric the Vis

            True. There were always some very unpleasant boy-hating women teachers and the attitude is now almost endorsed, albeit without the violence.

        • Phil R

          You don’t need corporal punishment.

          You need discipline. Some schools have it.

          some have given up.

      • Bik Byro

        I’ve not often agreed with you James, in fact this might be a world first, but I believe you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head there.

      • Shazza

        It’s far too easy for a student who has a grudge to bear against a teacher to make a false claim.

        It is the ultimate career destroyer and even after the claim is proved to be spurious and a malicious smear, there will in all probability be a whiff of ‘no smoke without fire’ which would follow for the rest of his life.

        A man would be crazy to go into the teaching profession.

  • As a male, I wouldn’t consider teaching these days.
    I used to know an ex-teacher who was threatened by one of the teenage girls in his class that if he didn’t give her better marks, she would go to the Head and report that he had “touched her up” and that her friend would confirm it. He reported the incident to the head who wasn’t interested, even suggesting that it was an excuse in advance. He resigned and now has a job outside teaching; he was not prepared to accept what could happen to himself and his family if such allegations were made, even if he could prove them to be false.
    Another, the son of an old friend, is busy studying for another job as he has had enough of indiscipline and violence. He’s been threatened with a knife on more than one occasion but no real action was taken about the culprits whom he daren’t touch for fear of being charged with assault.

    • John Birch


    • Phil R

      Nuts. No wonder the schools are so bad

  • John Birch

    No mention yet of children’s rights, that’s when it all went wrong. When children were given the belief that they could call the tune it’s obvious that the power balance between teacher and pupil would change.
    As of course it was intended to.
    The long march through the institutions has done and is still doing immense damage to this country.
    The infestation of the left into the positions of influence will take far more than elections to remove.

    • simonstephenson


  • John Smith

    this was the plan from the start

    the misandrist lesbian feminazis in the 60s wanted to take over schools so they can condition the

    girls to hate men and to undermine the boys to convince them they are useless and potential rapists

    its a shame really as it hasnt helped the girls in any way as the levels of depression and selfharm has rocketted

    all because a bunch of nut jobs werent born with dicks

  • Urban Spaceman 69

    A relative of mine worked for many years as an assistant at a local school – she found it odd that there were no male teachers at the school – in fact there were hardly any male employees at all from the catering staff through to the teachers and even the head of the school was female. Any vacancy that was available was immediately filled by another female. We both recalled the school that we both attended together as kids where half the teachers there were male – the head teacher, the maths teacher, the history teacher, the science teacher, the PE teacher, even the biology teacher who taught us about the birds and the bees was male – we even had male catering staff serving up the school meals – but today it appears that employment in the education system is dominated by females – male teachers are a tiny minority – nothing wrong with female teachers – but good male teachers are big loss to the education system especially for young boys who do need role models and the discipline that only good male teachers can provide.

    I doubt if much has improved since 2011: No male teachers at 4,500 primary schools, figures show

  • Phil R

    I know three guys who worked in primary schools.

    All of them were desperate to get out. Two of the three now work in secondary schools and one is a head. The other left.

    The reason? They were the only men in the school apart from the caretaker.

    My own personal view from the outside is that primary age children do not suit men. The Y6s perhaps. But younger?

    I don’t think so.

    Also I never understood why the pay in primary and secondary was the same.

    I would have thought that a physics or maths teacher to be worth twice or more than an infant teacher. Didn’t infants used to be run by mums for free? (And with better outcomes?) Don’t our competitors put the money in for proper schooling after the age of 7? ( with better results)

  • Under-the-weather

    Two of my teachers in primary school were men, one a music specialist who taught me to read music, and the other interested in the arts. Both excellent teachers who commanded respect just from their presence.

  • Alaric the Vis

    Boys are now often badly misunderstood in primary schools. Normal boy behaviour is being seen as a problem by staff with little or no understanding of boys. I have seen this and challenged it. This situation is extremely unhealthy, but the entire focus is on girls’ progress and welfare.

    • Colkitto03

      Yes, absolutely, and we see the outcome of this in the amount of Boys ‘diagnosed’ with ADHD. It is vastly boys that are diagnosed.
      Although ADHD does exist, it is massively over diagnosed in the UK. In the USA we see a huge rise also in the use of Ritalin over the last two decades.
      Educational professionals (mostly women) do not understand the boisterous nature of young boys. This is accentuated by feminised lessons and lesson formats that allow boys to become bored, agitated and frustrated.
      Even if we compare with a country like France we see that diagnoses of ADHD is about 15% of what it is in the UK and use of behavior suppressing drugs is very rare indeed.
      The media don’t want to touch this subject with a barge pole.

  • One of the most obvious expedients that school governors, faced with this crisis, could use to rectify this situation, would be to offer significantly increased salaries and ‘golden handshakes’ to men, to encourage them to enter the profession. It would be a sensible, normal, market-based approach to a skills deficit in any organisation, but, of course, as everyone knows, no school governing board is going to do it because of the inevitable shriek that would come from the feminists about equal pay, etc.

    This shows the degree to which feminist ideologues now have total control of our children’s education, which is the means by which their ideology is going to be propagated down the generations. Those who read this and have children at school (especially if they have boys) need to wake up to what these bigots are up to.

    I believe the only way to break this ideological domination of our children is to have sex-segregated schools, as I wrote about over a year ago now.

    • Phil R

      I agree that sex segregation seems to work well

      • TheRightToArmBears

        It seems to work on every level for Islamic men.

      • Busy Mum

        I was a fan of single-sex schools until recently. Now that Stonewall has taken over, these institutions have become very unhealthy. Rather than avoiding the problem of boys and girls being distracted by the opposite sex in a co-ed school, pupils in single-sex schools are now being taught to view their same-sex classmates as potential sexual partners.

        • Phil R

          I just read CS Lewis’ account of his time in boarding school. surprsingly he did not think the widespread buggery was the worst sin. (He claimed that most boys went on to be good fathers).

          An interesting viewpoint that I did not expect from CS Lewis.

    • Craig Martin

      Spot on Mr Purdy

  • Don Benson

    I wonder if I would be right in assuming that most of the fads and ‘child-centred’ waffle that have caused so much misery and educational damage to our schools was dreamt up by the non-teaching theorists in universities and teacher training colleges. And of course those institutions have been a breeding ground for every kind of destructive notion that has swept the western world. Brainwash the trainee teachers and, within a generation, you have captured the schools. Capture the schools and, very soon, you’ve captured families and then wider society. Feminism is a major part of this and it’s no surprise that male schoolteachers have voted with their feet.

    As ever, problems in organisations start at the top. It is head teachers in schools, governing bodies in academic institutions and the prime minister in a government who are responsible for failure or success. The appointment of such people is crucial to setting goals and the high standards to achieve them, commanding respect and loyalty among staff, building up confidence in the integrity of the institution, maintaining just and dependable discipline; you could summarise it as leadership that is so intelligent that it dares to use common sense in all situations. I’m sure there are enough people of the calibre necessary to perform in this way; the problem comes from the many third rate people who are determined to stop them.

    • John Birch

      You have just described the long march through the institutions

  • Jake
    • Busy Mum

      Very true – and every single school and sixth form college is plastered with posters reminding staff to ‘ALWAYS believe the CHILD’.
      Children are not stupid – they see these posters and know they can get away with anything.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    A friend was senior inspector of schools for and inner London borough. Most of the working day was spent trying to sack inefficient teachers, mostly obese and black. Cases against the teachers were painfully slow, built up with a progression of warnings, verbal and written with witness statements, where, when, who, how, etc etc, eventually proceeding to a tribunal, whereupon the union would tell the teacher to go sick for six months on full pay, which meant that the whole cycle had to begin again from the beginning.

    The unions, which are there for the staff with no concern for the pupils, are the problem. Enable schools to sack bad teachers and then education can begin, but from a long way back.

    • John Birch

      So true

  • David

    Cultural Marxism has, as intended, ruined our educational system. It is a cancer that has ruined much in most western countries. Liberal thinking is a disease and unless it is cured, rooted out, the patient, the western countries, will die.

  • John Birch

    It needs less teacher training college and the removing of common purpose.

    • I’m not sure what is coming out of Teacher Training College, but it isn’t anything good.

      • RobertRetyred

        It started in the 1960s.

  • A tolerance for mediocrity where high standards are required are what has killed off the British education system in the last 50 years. As a language tutor, I see this almost every week. My English/British students often struggle with very basic grammatical concepts like nouns and verbs. It isn’t their fault– they were never taught these things properly at school, and still are not being taught properly. On the other hand, my Spanish students are very quick with grammar, as are my Indian students. There is a lot of inequality in this country, but much of that could be corrected with a strong and rigorous education system that benefits the poorest in society, because it gives them the chance to move upwards. Having grown up in a working class family, I’m not sure how I would have been able to make extra money had I not studied hard in a great secondary school and had easy access to library, and discovered my skill in languages. Education is the great equalizer.

    • simonstephenson

      “There is a lot of inequality in this country, but much of that could be corrected with a strong and rigorous education system that benefits the poorest in society, because it gives them the chance to move upwards.”

      I agree completely, but this is just about the last thing the Marxist Left is going to allow to happen, so until this section of society is disempowered there’s no chance of the education establishment working towards such a goal.

      • That’s precisely what frustrated me when I was on the left. I think if I can sum up one major reason I had for leaving the left and becoming an independent, it is education. I just could not understand why they glorified comprehensives/state schools that simply weren’t producing top students, why curriculums had been dumbed down on their watch, why they vilified grammars, which I saw as potentially helping poorer, gifted students. As a black woman from a working-class background, the ONE thing that has helped me get ahead is a strong education, not classes on political-correctness.

        • RobertRetyred

          Melanie Phillips had the same Damascus moment, at the Guardian:
          Leaving The Left – Melanie Phillips

          • Watched it already. (Seen most of her CSPAN interview). Agree with a lot of what she says, which is funny, because I had believed that we would disagree more often.

        • simonstephenson

          I think the answer to what you could not understand is that the Marxist Left is only interested in the conditions of those at the bottom of society in so far as they can be shaped into a cudgel for use in attacking those who occupy positions higher up the social ladder. And that this lack of concern about others less fortunate than themselves is so emotionally devastating for the Marxist Left that they subconsciously use psychological projection to “shift” the source of the evil from themselves to others who are in a comfortable position on the social ladder.

          So there are two principal falsehoods in the Left’s justification for its actions – (1) that the motivation behind the actions is a concern for the less well-off and (2) that there is any evidence that the comfortable non-Left share the selfish lack of concern for others that the Left quite clearly has.

          But of course because the construction of the actions is subconscious, the Left is unaware of what it is really doing, or that the explanations and justifications it is broadcasting are total fabrications.

  • simonstephenson

    “Schools should not be knowledge-lite agencies for indoctrinating children in fashionable, and often highly politicised, social ideologies”

    But to the Marxist Left this is precisely what schools should be, and since the Marxist Left controls the Education Blob it will require a winner-takes-all confrontation between elected authority and the Blob before any changes could be made. And I’m afraid to say that there are so few modern Conservative representatives who are willing to participate in such a confrontation that it is something that is very unlikely to happen.

    • RobertRetyred

      Participating in such a confrontation does not provide a sufficiently remunerated career, along with enough status (of the right sort) or appropriate networking opportunities to fill positions of influence. David Cameron is a good example of getting higher up the greasy pole by looking good rather than looking where you are going.