By Richard Fraser, Editor
A film for the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, 'Why we need more men in nurseries' (watch), has found that two in three councils providing nursery services do not employ any men, and asks. "How can diversity in the profession be improved?"
"A lot of men don't see it as a man's job and a lot of men are not aware that the role even exists," says Jamel Campbell, who started teaching the under-fives 16 years ago (watch clip).
"People are entrusting their precious babies to us, to care for them and to teach them," he says. "There is a lot of stigma based on negative stories - children being at harm... men not being nurturing, men not being able to work with children that small."
'Jamel, who works for the London Early Years Foundation, says more men would be interested if they understood the benefits of a balanced workforce':
"Some children out there may not have a male in their home, there needs to be balance, they need to have that interaction," he says. "It breaks down that whole, 'you have to be macho to be a male,' thing. It shows them men can be silly, can play, make jokes, can give you a hug if you've fallen down."
The lack of men in childcare has been an issue for many years. In a 2009 article, "Men - we need you in childcare!" for Child Care magazine, Tricia Pritchard, Voice's Senior Professional Officer (Childcare), wrote:
"Children need male as well as female role models. ...
"There are far more children nowadays who come from one parent families and, generally speaking, those families have a female parent rather than a male parent, so many children aren’t getting a male role model at home. At nursery and in school, because of the predominantly female workforce, they aren’t getting a male role model there either. They aren’t seeing how adult men and women behave and react towards each other. ...
"Early years settings can provide children with access to a male role model."
She also commented:
"However, unless more is done to improve the pay, working conditions, training, career development and status of childcarers, I fear that men – and, increasingly, women – will not be attracted to childcare as a profession."
This remains a problem today (literally, as Voice commented on the latest analysis of the early years workforce):
"There is still much work to be done to change public perceptions of what has traditionally been seen as a "female" role. The problem is self-perpetuating. As children go through nurseries with female staff, they’ve grown up perceiving it as a female profession, so when young men come to choose their own career, they don’t tend to think of childcare because they see it as "a woman’s" role."
"There isn’t an instant answer to this situation. It is like slowing down an oil tanker and turning it round. There is certainly a marketing job to be done to encourage people to understand that being a childcarer is an appropriate role for a man but, one day, I hope that nobody will give a second thought to men working in nurseries."
Do let us know your views...
Only 2% of nursery and reception teachers are men... is it a career you'd consider?
Ross is an early years teacher and says there is a lack of male role models. pic.twitter.com/BUIBrHzbTS
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) May 2, 2018