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Would you take a strong male?

Posted on 10/11/2016 by Jon Pettit

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Sounds like a loaded question doesn't it!?

In short, there is real lack of available female PE teachers in certain areas of the UK, making it more problematical to cover maternity leaves or other short term absences. Consequently, we've found ourselves asking this question to some schools to ensure they get a quality trained teacher to cover a female teacher’s absence.

There's no shying away from the issue, it's a fact! There is a greater demand to cover female teachers than males - fact!. In the main this is due to maternity leave, but it places a greater emphasis on recruiting female PE teachers than males and there are simply less available female teachers in the system – fact!

Can we discriminate?

Before anyone asks, there's no sex discrimination case to answer here either. Schools have a GOR (Genuine Occupational Reason) to ask for a female teacher (changing supervision etc) when seeking a teacher of girls PE. But in our experience, a male replacement may often be equally capable of teaching a girls PE timetable, due to the modern curriculum being so similar between girls and boys PE. In fact, I experienced this back in 2002 (pre-Futureactive) at an all-girls school in South London, that I was working in. A pragmatic female Head of PE employed an Aussie male PE teacher to cover maternity – “best decision I ever made” I can recall her remarking “he’s an excellent teacher!”

So, is it purely down to the like for like replacement not upsetting the status quo, then, that makes certain schools so adamant that they can only have a female replace a female? Should it not be objective, down to the quality of the candidates?

Sure, we understand the logistical complications behind employing a male when it comes to female pupils getting changed - yet alone the health and safety implications of an unsupervised changing facility. But schools are employers of vast proportions nowadays and even if there are issues covering the changing facility from within the PE department it is surely possible to draft in a learning support assistant or another female support worker to assist, especially if it meant employing a sub-standard female PE teacher because that was "all who was available"!

In fact, the most common reason for schools rejecting the notion of employing a male to replace a female is due to changing room supervision! They simply won’t entertain a male alternative.

Why is this happening?

Why the shortage of female PE teachers then? Well, for one, in the past 8/9 years the government have slashed the number of secondary trained PE teachers graduating each year, almost in half. This obviously means that there are less teachers in the system.

We've also witnessed the well documented exodus from teaching, with some suggesting the figures are 1 in 10 teachers leaving the profession year on year. There has also been a decline in the number of Antipodean teachers re-locating to or living and working in the UK for 2 years, whilst they use the UK as a base to travel Europe. This well-trodden path is a little less populated nowadays. And before anyone questions the impact these teachers could have, it is safe to say that in certain areas and in certain schools, if OTTs (Overseas Trained Teachers) were withdrawn, the whole education system would collapse.

Silver Linings:

We’ve seen imbalances between candidates and vacancies before, on both sides of the fence. As a PE specialist agency with over 10 years’ experience, we can recognise trends and deal with them and we always back ourselves to find the best candidates out there, male or female, whether in a shortage area or not. We’ve have also seen an increase in western European trained teachers, particularly from Portugal and Spain and a steady flow of Eastern European teachers which has remained constant over the past 10 years, which ash helped bolster the dwindling number of available UK trained professionals.

Let me ask it again

So, “would you accept a strong male?” All things considered, perhaps schools should explore all options to accommodate the best teacher in the PE department, when covering any type of absence.

I think the answer we’re looking for is simply “we’ll accept a strong teacher”!