The news angered campaigners who claim that boys are underperforming in a feminised school environment where any attempts to increase the number of male role models are opposed by union leaders as being sexist.
The sacked teacher, design and technology head Richard Tremelling, 37, took his class of 15-year-old GCSE students on to slopes at the back of their school during the morning break to test his 30-year-old sledge, which he called a ‘design classic’.
The school ruled the married father of three had breached its health and safety policy, which required a written risk assessment and pupils to be wearing appropriate protective clothing and headgear.
Mr Tremelling’s union representative, the NASUWT’s Colin Adkins, said his dismissal from Cefn Hengoed Community School in Swansea in June 2009 was ‘totally unjustified’ and like ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.
In a swipe at the ‘obsession’ with health and safety, Mr Adkins said: ‘Teachers are not making decisions based on what’s best for the pupils, but what is best for them. They are too mindful of what can happen if things go wrong, even in situations where the risk could be judged as negligible.’
A disciplinary hearing was told that he allowed two boys in the class to go on the sledge after checking that the two slopes were safe for the exercise.
The teacher was found guilty by the General Teaching Council for Wales for unacceptable professional misconduct after he admitted failing to act on an instruction days earlier from the headmistress, Sue Hollister, not to allow children on to the snowy slopes.
Ironically, the leader of his own union, Chris Keates, has opposed action to address the severe shortage of male teachers despite the fact that the number of male teachers in Wales recently slumped to a five year low with 0nly 15% of Welsh primary teaching posts taken by men.
A survey of children about the lack of male teachers at a primary school in north Londona found that “Girls didn’t care, but the boys did. They said they preferred men because they knew what they liked and did more ‘doing things’,” according to Shirley Boffey, the headteacher.
“Men often have a different approach to delivering the curriculum: boys like to do, they like to go outside, they like to be active. Having male teachers does not only make a difference in the classroom, but also in the staff room; it changes the tone.”
Graham Holley, chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, has complained that teachers unions label him a ‘sexist’ whenever he raises the issue of getting more men in schools.
“Whenever I talk about the need to get more men into primaries, the unions say I’m being anti-women, but it’s not that,” said Graham Holley, chief executive of the TDAS. “Everyone is trained to handle boys and girls in the classroom and it [the gender mix of staff] does not affect attainment. But education is about more than just academic achievement; it is about preparation for adulthood, and there is a need for a mix of role models in primary classrooms.”
Holley argued that schools needed to represent society better, “and if we are not attracting men, we are under-exploiting our pool of potential teachers”, he added.
In Spring 2010 the conference of the
One union, The Association of Teachers and Lectures, did pass a motion calling for a delegation of public bodies, including the Trades Union Congress, to investigate the need for positive male role models for boys in education, at its Spring conference in 2010 – for details read our recent post on how a lack of male role models causes depression in boys.
Other leading voices calling for a more physically active and male-friendly school environment include the author of Raising Boys, Steve Biddulph, and the broadcaster and chorister Gareth Malone who tackled the issue in the BBC programme Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School For Boys.
Mr Tremelling, who is an officer in the Territorial Army, has been unable to find teaching employment since the incident, says he wants to return to the profession. His story is told in The Guardian, The Mail, The Mirror and The Sun.
The BBC carries footage of Mr Tremelling’s statment to the press after the decision not to bar him from teaching and Telegraph Blogger Guy Walters calls for Mr Tremelling to be promoted.