Blue Peter or Early Years?

Why aren’t men teaching in Early Years?

This is an easy one.

When you have out of touch and clueless politicians like Andrea Leadsom spouting nonsense then recruitment becomes a problem. She was speaking to The Times newspaper a couple of years ago and in typical foot in mouth fashion said the following,

‘As an employer we’re not, let’s face it, most of us don’t employ men as nannies, most of us don’t. Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats. Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man, We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.’

So there we have it. All men are paedophiles and so therefore we are better off employing women. What garbage there is out there. Let’s remember that Andrea Leadsom is the person who referred to Jane Austen as one of our “greatest living authors”. Classic.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that that the majority of councils have no men working in their nurseries because parents assume they pose risk to children. Old news.

Mistry and Sood (2013) in their study, ‘Why are there still so few men within the early years in primary schools: views from male trainee teachers and male leaders?’ talk about one of the main reasons for males not entering Early Years work is associated with harmful stereotypes including the risk of being wrongly accused of indecent behaviour, that men can be perceived as being threatening to some young children, and the perception that early years is a career path for women, because they are perceived as more nurturing. They say,

Stereotypes, perceived or real, of gender inequality, homophobia or identity need to be challenged and addressed by leaderships in organisations.

Imbalance

It’s been 100 years since women got the vote, but gender equality remains a pipe dream…for men and women.

Let us rewind. This is a statement from The Government’s 1998 Green Paper, ‘Meeting the Childcare Challenge’.

“Working with children is seen as a predominantly female occupation. Yet male carers have much to offer, including acting as positive role models for boys – especially from families where the father is absent.”

‘Caring’ is still dominated by women. ‘Teaching’ is still dominated by women. How far have we come?

The lop-sided nature of Early Years is profound. Men were scared off and still are scared to enter a profession deemed as “women’s work” (shrieks of horror) and where someone will point a finger at you and say “he’s probably a paedophile”.

Every year the Government will talk about wanting to tackle the gender imbalance in the sector and “make early education and childcare a viable career choice for all.”

But nothing has happened to tackle the feminisation of the workforce.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) this week released the report, The early years workforce: A fragmented picture and found that

On average across OECD countries, around 97 per cent of teachers in pre-primary education are women.

The report also noted that the early years workforce “still suffers from low status in society and within the education system itself”.

The call for more male nursery staff has been shouted for years.

Positive Role Models

The influence of male practitioners in childcare settings can be huge but if you want to attract men into the profession then it’s going to take more than showing Daddy Day Care.

The Pre-school Learning Alliance says,

“Childcare should be promoted as work for boys and men. Ideas included ensuring that careers advisors in schools encourage young men to undertake work experience placements in day nurseries, and promote images and case studies of men successfully working in childcare.”

We need real teachers and experts to promote Early Years and get the message out there that this is a sector for men and women.

People like Alistar Bryce-Clegg (ABC) and Jamel Campbell are precisely who we need.

Take a look at ABC’s video below:

But wait…let’s not associate ‘role model’ with being male. Simon Brownhill (2010) points out,

My research suggests that everyone, irrespective of their gender, can be defined as a role model depending on their ability to model both ‘natural’ masculine and feminine traits; this challenges the idea of the role model as necessarily being ‘male’.

The UK’s fatherhood think-and-do-tank The Fatherhood Institute have started the Men In The Early Years #MITEY campaign to help increase the diversity and gender balance of the early years workforce. Their objectives are as follows:

  • To raise awareness in the early years sector of why we need more men working with children and families/carers
  • To raise awareness of the opportunities and benefits in the wider population
  • To provide managers and frontline staff in the early years sector, including in training organisations, with resources to assist them in recruiting men
  • To promote early years careers to men
  • To signpost men in the early years sector, and those considering such work, to further support.

Show your support and read their report.

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