Men turned off teaching

FEWER than 50 male teachers have joined the Hunter and Central Coast region's teaching ranks this year as men steer clear of the profession because of low wages and child-protection concerns.

Figures from the NSW Education Department show there are fewer than 200 male teachers under the age of 30 in primary and secondary state schools in the Hunter and Central Coast.

By comparison there are more than 1000 over the age of 50 in the region.

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Just 49 men started work in state schools in the region this year compared with 133 women.

Throughout the region, fewer than one in four primary teachers is a man and in high schools, just over two in five, with the numbers falling over time.

NSW Teachers Federation Hunter organiser Fred Dumbrell said there had been a steady slide in men joining the profession in the past 20 years.

Much of the decline was associated with high wages in engineering jobs during the resources boom, which had attracted men who otherwise might have gone into maths or science teaching.

"We saw the same thing in the '60s when a lot of men went into geology during the boom and got into science teaching later," he said.

Men also began to shy away from the profession in the early 1990s after child protection laws were introduced.

Mr Dumbrell said men falsely perceived the industry was too fraught with the potential for accusations of inappropriate behaviour.

"It's seen as a female profession even though it has got a very long tradition of men being prominent," he said.

"A lot of people see what teachers go through and do not find it an appealing profession, given the amount of pressure.

"A good teacher is someone both male and female students can relate to."

A NSW Education Department spokesman said the decline in male teachers in NSW schools was a reflection of a national trend.

He said gender was not considered when appointing teachers.

"The quality of the teacher is more important than whether they are male or female," he said.

"Strategies are in place to attract quality teachers including the teach.NSW campaign that promotes teaching as a career to a number of target groups, including males."

A teacher's story

BEN Durie could have had his pick of careers but chose to be a school teacher.

Mr Durie, 26, has defied trends and is one of the few young men to enter a primary teaching career.

He had not planned to become a teacher and considered engineering until he got his final school marks.

‘‘I started thinking about what I really wanted,’’ he said. ‘‘I always helped my mates with their work and I enjoyed helping somebody make connections.’’

Mr Durie is a teacher and librarian and the only full-time male classroom teacher at Singleton Public School.

He said it made for some interesting experiences in the staff room.

‘‘It was a bit of a shock at first,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a skill unto itself.’’

Mr Durie works in a suburb where he is surrounded by peers earning big dollars in the mining industry, but it doesn’t faze him.

‘‘I guess there is that stigma with males teaching,’’ he said.

‘‘When I catch up with my mates at the pub they’ve got the bank balance ... but I chose to do something that challenges me.’’

He wouldn’t trade the pay for the ‘‘rock star’’ status he enjoys from his students.

‘‘They are all back from school holidays this week and a lot of the boys want to tell me what they got up to,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s like being a rock star without having to sing or dance.’’

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