Male teaching assistant 'stereotyped' as 'woman's job'

Gareth Hughes outside his school, Ysgol Bod Alaw Image copyright Sandra Roberts
Image caption Gareth Hughes says the job is "very rewarding"

A teaching assistant has said men are put off from his profession because it is stereotyped as "a woman's job".

Women are 28 times more likely to be employed as a teaching assistant in the primary sector than men, according to a new report.

Gareth Hughes, who teaches in Colwyn Bay, Conwy county, said at first his friends thought he was "a babysitter".

The Welsh Government said teaching support staff are "highly regarded" in schools.

The 30-year-old, from Old Colwyn, works as a higher level teaching assistant at Ysgol Bod Alaw.

Mr Hughes said he believes more men are not attracted to the role because "the wages are awful" and they are "scared" to be in a job which is gender stereotyped.

"For young lads it would be harder amongst their friends to respect it more," he said.

Image copyright Gareth Hughes
Image caption Gareth has taught for nine years

But he said he would encourage men to apply because the job is "very rewarding" and "no one day is the same".

Male and female role models

Mr Hughes is the only man out of 17 higher level teaching assistants or teaching assistants who work at the primary school.

"Children need male and female role models in their lives," he said.

"Not everyone has a father or brother growing up, so it would help them to have a male presence in their life."

The share of male qualified teachers and teaching assistants fell from 25% in 2005-06 to 18.8% in 2017-18, according to a report by the Wales Governance Centre.

So what does the job involve?

Mr Hughes, who has worked at the school for nine years, said he believed the general public did not know what the role is, and added his friends thought he was a "babysitter".

His work starts at 08:30 to 18:00, with a half-hour lunch break, and involves working with target groups of pupils on maths, covering breaks and supporting sports classes.

However in other schools, the job could entail more, such as providing 1:1 support to learners with extra needs.

Schools' gender pay gap

Mr Hughes added his workload has grown "considerably" but this is not necessarily reflected in teacher assistant pay. He added many teaching assistants have second jobs.

David Evans, Wales secretary for the National Education Union, said research is needed "to drill down" as to why there are more women than men in these positions.

"Perhaps we should be doing something more to attract them to the role and there is a significant part for them to play.

"We believe there is a gender pay gap in schools in which women have been worse off than men and it is a real issue of concern.

"The local government need to look at their gender pay gap and the equality issues.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: "We recently made the single biggest investment of £24m in teachers' professional learning and will shortly be introducing Professional Standards for Teaching Assistants which will support all teaching assistants with their development and progression."

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