STRATEGIES are needed to attract more men to teaching, otherwise Australian schools are headed for a male teacher drought, a new report finds.
The report Why Choose Teaching? – by the Learning Sciences Institute Australia (LSIA) at the Australian Catholic University and commissioned by the Queensland College of Teachers – recommends identifying aspiring teachers while they are still at high school and fostering their ambition.
The first study of its kind to ask serving teachers why they chose the profession reveals the greatest influencers on people choosing teaching are not career counsellors but teachers themselves, followed by family and friends.
The report rings true for St Patrick’s College Mackay teacher Stephen Mortimer, 47, who fondly remembers his Year 6 teacher Lex Bowden who made map-reading lessons so much fun that he wanted to be a teacher himself.
“From that point on I had in the back of my mind how I would make lessons great for the students,” Mr Mortimer, who is married with seven-year-old twin daughters, said.
After studying as a physical education teacher and starting in a classroom in Ipswich he has moved to Wide Bay and now Mackay to further his career.
In 26 years’ teaching Mr Mortimer has taught HPE (Health and Physical Education), science and maths and is now assistant principal for religious education at St Patrick’s.
“I have always found a sense of achievement when I provide students with experiences and opportunities to grow, achieve and enjoy the experience of school,” he said.
The new report shows the main driving factor for all teachers is the intrinsic value of teaching – followed by teaching ability, and a desire to shape the future of young lives.
But male teachers were more likely than their female colleagues to be drawn to the profession to teach a subject they have a strong interest in, as well as leadership opportunities.
QCT director John Ryan said the report would assist employers to attract the best possible teachers.
It revealed 40 per cent of teachers decided on that career path while they were still at school and teachers needed to understand the “vital ambassadorial role they have in attracting the next generation of teachers to the profession’’.
“Teaching is important for the nation’s future social and economic development, so it’s critical to understand what attracts people to the profession,” Mr Ryan said.
Garrett Fitzgerald, 30, also a teacher at St Patrick’s College, Mackay, chose education to make a difference, and because he “could see the profession needed high-quality male teachers”.
“I didn’t enjoy my own schooling and I did not get along with most of my teachers,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“As such, I endeavour not to do as they did.”
Still single, Mr Fitzgerald studied law before entering teaching.
He said making the transition as a male teacher had been sometimes difficult.
“The norm in teaching appears to be married, female, with children. Adjusting to new workplaces in a culture in which I am not the norm can be confusing and difficult,” he said.
Mr Fitzgerald said he worked best with disengaged and low-level students (many of whom were boys).
“I very much enjoy seeing them grow, helping them develop confidence and prepare for the workplace as best they can,” he said.
LSIA director Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith said the Why Choose Teaching? report, which was based on a survey of 1165 teachers, provided key data on the factors that influenced practising teachers to take up teaching as a career of choice.
“It provides some answers to vexed questions about how to target recruitment more effectively,” Professor Wyatt-Smith said.
“This is undoubtedly important at a time when student numbers are expected to rise and a teacher shortage is anticipated.”
The study found more men were needed in teaching to address worrying workforce trends which pointed to a “looming teacher drought”.
Only one in four teachers across the country are male and the proportion of men in the profession has been steadily falling since 1984.
“Past research has shown male teachers have a part to play in both girls’ and boys’ social development, so the male teacher drought in the classroom is of considerable concern,” Prof Wyatt-Smith said.
“This report reveals the need for a very targetted and differentiated approach to successfully attract more men to the teaching profession.
“With the most significant motivator for male teachers being to teach a subject in which they have a strong interest, we need to ramp up our targetting of people in general discipline degrees in much-needed subject areas.
“A higher proportion of male teachers also have greater career advancement and leadership aspirations than female teachers and view teaching as a step towards gaining leadership roles.
“As a result, career pathways need to be developed and promoted to attract more men into teaching.
“In addition, leadership training needs to be readily available.”
Student numbers are expected to grow by 26 per cent by 2022 while overall teacher numbers have grown by an average of one per cent in the past five years.
Teachers are not staying in the profession for which they have trained.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 53 per cent of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education.