Keeping Men Out of Schools: Sexism and discrimination in Victoria

Keeping Men Out of Schools: Sexism and discrimination in Victoria, by Christopher Heathcote.

For more than a decade there has been mounting media awareness of a national decline in numbers of male teachers. Primary schools are most affected. University education faculties report close to zero male enrolments in primary teaching courses, and it is evident that men are choosing not to become primary teachers. … Across Australia men make up only 26 per cent of teachers employed in government schools. …

Despite teaching positions being processed by the Department of Education and Training’s computer, I duly learned that no monitoring of appointment patterns takes place. Compliance on Equal Opportunity is assumed. So there is no auditing to ensure selection processes are fair and equitable at schools which exceed national trends on the sex of appointees.

Had the government checked its own figures for potential bias, it would have spotted two schools standing out in the surveyed Melbourne region. Taylors Lakes Secondary College appointed nine women English teachers and two men English teachers during the two-year survey period, which equates to over four women hired for every man.

This imbalance paled against Keilor Downs Secondary College, which appointed seventeen female teachers and only one male teacher in the survey period. Seventeen-to-one is seriously disproportionate. It cannot be reconciled statistically with impartial, unprejudiced staff selection. Men didn’t seem to stand a chance. …

According to the Australian Education Union, Melbourne now has a float of around 10,000 teachers hungry for a stable job.

Partly this is due to local universities producing more graduates annually than schools can absorb … But the main cause is Victoria’s provisions for extended maternity leave. Besides standard entitlements for maternity leave, expectant mothers teaching in Victoria’s government schools may take an additional seven years unpaid leave. So rather than a new mum resigning to raise a family after using up her paid maternity leave entitlement, thereby freeing up her position for job seekers, the school holds the position for her, filling it for the interim with staff on contracts. … In Victoria, all government schools have a growing cluster of temps doing jobs being kept for permanent teachers off on a seven-year break. And they are escalating with the birth-rate. …

My third year of job hunting … did see me land several interviews. Most were well conducted, being professional and fair with a positive atmosphere in the interview room. But four schools merely went through the motions, making little effort to hide an intention not to choose me. Body language plainly conveyed lack of engagement. There were no smiles around the table, eyes were averted, stony silence reigned. …

Which raises the question: if the sexes were reversed, and in a two-year period the school had appointed seventeen male English teachers and just one female, would there likewise have been official inaction? …

In the last decade successive prime ministers have called for the brightest and the best to enter teaching. Contrary to these appeals, some universities have progressively lowered entrance scores for their education courses. Nor can it be shown that the government sector now values applicants who, besides teaching qualifications, hold masters degrees or doctorates. In my own case, the latter credential has been a distinct liability in seeking to teach in government schools.

If dopey girls rule our schools, hog the cushy government teaching positions and won’t let anyone else in, what effect will this have on our kid’s education? Won’t the educational outcomes get worse? Oh, that’s what’s been happening, despite ever higher per-pupil expenditure.

hat-tip Stephen Neil