London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Investigating gender as a factor in primary pupil-teacher relations and perceptions

Funded by:

the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC): RES-000-23-0624


June 2004 - June 2006

Teacher Relations and Perceptions:

The government has repeatedly expressed concern about the low numbers of male teachers in primary schools, and teacher training providers have been given targets by the TTA to increase their recruitment of men students. The explanation given for wanting more men teachers in primary schools is to counter boys' underachievement and disaffection with schooling. The policy assumes that boys identify more readily with male teachers and that such teachers have different teaching styles from their female colleagues. However, these are just assumptions as no research has been carried out in this country to investigate whether gender is a factor in the way pupils relate to their teachers.

The research:

This project was managed by Dr Christine Skelton of University of Newcastle, and the London arm of the project was managed by Dr Becky Francis of IPSE. The research was informed by feminist and social constructionist theoretical positions on gender identity. It examined how primary pupils relate to male and female teachers, and investigated their perceptions of any gender-related differences. It also examined teachers' views on these issues.

Research Methods:

Data was collected through a combination of interviews with pupils and teachers and observation of teacher-pupil classroom interactions. Year 3 pupils took part together with their teachers. A total of 300 boys and girls, and 50 teachers were involved. Each class involved was visited by researchers on two days, one of which was spent mainly in classroom observation, and the other in interviewing some of the pupils and the teacher.


The majority of the responses showed that boys and girls were primarily concerned about the quality of the teacher rather than their gender. Researchers were repeatedly told by children: "men and women are the same, they’re both teachers, they both teach the same thing."

Boys were just as likely to say they wanted to be like their women teachers as their male teachers, and vice versa for the girls.

The study provides vital information to schools and to those involved in the recruitment and retention of teachers. Recruitment strategies can legitimately focus on encouraging the best people into teaching, rather than judging teachers on their gender.


Project Team:

Becky Francis
Merryn Hutchings
Barbara Read
Christine Skelton (Project Manager), University of Newcastle
Bruce Carrington, University of Newcastle
Ian Hall, University of Newcastle


Becky Francis -
Christine Skelton - School of Education,
Communication and Language Sciences
University of Newcastle
Newcastle, NE1 7RU

0191 222 7593


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