I have just read an interesting post from @cherrylkd about the perceived need for more men in primary education. Cherryl came down very firmly on the side of this and argued eloquently without evoking shades of sexism. I began to think about our primary pru and changes I have noted since I started here six years ago, and my thoughts are these:
Initially I was seconded as DHT to cover the retirement of a female deputy; coincidentally the only male teacher, in fact the only male member of staff (aside from our male caretaker) left just before I started. As a newcomer to BESD provision I didn’t ponder much on the fact that we were an all-female teaching/support staff other than when we were in a restraint situation. It did occasionally cross my mind that it would be useful to have a male with our (mostly) boys when it came to de-escalating and debriefing during and after some quite challenging physical encounters. However, initially, I just accepted the status quo. Then we had a change of head and behaviour worsened; we all became vulnerable to assault and actual violence which resulted in considerable numbers of staff absences. Male members of staff were recruited who were able, partly, to head off/deal with violent escalations and they effectively became unofficial ‘bouncers’ within the school.
A further change of head brought positive benefits; the mentality of man as ‘bouncer’ was discouraged in favour of man as ‘motivator’ and positive role model. We employed a male apprentice and a male behaviour support assistant and the advantages became immediately apparent; our male staff developed our outdoor environment, involving our disaffected boys to good effect. They were positive sporting role models in a way which us females couldn’t be. They offered counselling opportunities in a way which us females couldn’t. They offered a measure of reassurance in difficult and challenging circumstances with aggressive male children.
This isn’t to decry the place of female staff in prus; many of our boys have hostile relationships with the women in their lives – they have attachment difficulties with their mothers – and so they need to start building positive relationships with women. However it is easy for these to stray into the inappropriate with boys ‘loving’ or even ‘fancying’ female staff members in an ultimately negative way. It is still vital for women to interact with our children – boys and girls – but there needs to be a balance of the sexes.
In conclusion, I feel that males and females need to both play a part in the education of our disaffected children and have a lot to offer albeit in different ways.