A TEACHER has encouraged more men to pursue a classroom career after figures revealed a clear gender divide among Oxfordshire trainees.

At the county's three main training centres combined, 409 people started postgraduate teaching courses this year and a further 64 started at undergraduate.

Of the former intake, for which a gender breakdown is included in new statistics, 72 per cent were women.

Ed Finch, who works at Larkrise Primary School in East Oxford, said he has worked with 'barely a handful' of male colleagues in 16 years of teaching.

The teacher said men were traditionally looked at with 'suspicion' for getting into the profession, particularly when working with younger children.

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He added: "I'd love to see more men getting into teaching - it's a rewarding career and one which allows you to be active and creative every day.

"For many pupils, the only male adult they get to know outside their family might be a teacher or teaching assistant.

"It's great if that lets them encounter a range of different ways of 'being a man' - sporty men, funny men, gentle men, musical men, adventurous men, quiet men, creative men."

Mr Finch said teachers can be especially important role models if a child's father is absent or is not setting a healthy example.

He added: "I think in the past teaching, particularly of younger children, was seen as a caring or mothering role and men who took on the job were looked at with suspicion. I would love to see that change."

Oxford Brookes University, Oxfordshire Teacher Training (OTT) at the Cherwell School and Oxford University were the three Oxfordshire training centres included in the Department for Education's official data table.

At Brookes there were 15 male trainees compared to 91 women; 26 compared to 83 at OTT and 71 compared to 122 at Oxford University.

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Across all three centres, 195 trainees were aged 25 or younger, and 214 were over the age of 25.

Just 61 were from an ethnic minority background, while 58 had a declared disability.

People who train in Oxfordshire do not necessarily stay in the county to teach, but many take up placements at county schools during their studies.

The Department for Education takes its Initial Teacher Training Census to record trainees entering the profession, the diversity of that group and what subject areas they are training in.

It has come under fire nationally for missing its own teacher recruitment targets, despite a national advertising campaign to entice new starters.

This was the seventh consecutive year in which targets had been missed for secondary subjects overall, despite a slight increase in overall numbers starting teacher training in 2019.

Primary teaching targets were also missed this year, despite the target being exceeded last year.

Oxfordshire itself is no stranger to the apparent crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, with the problem exacerbated by the high cost of living.