Andy Morris, chief executive at Asquith Nurseries, is urging a comprehensive change in nursery recruitment policies. Currently, only two per cent of the early years workforce is male.
The trend carries on into primary school, with no male teacher at nearly a third of primary schools in the UK, according to recent figures from the General Teaching Council (News, 8 September 2010).
Mr Morris described the figures as troubling and said, ‘I am afraid this is a subject that gets swept under the carpet but this is real discrimination against males – and the nursery industry is getting away with it.’
He added ‘There is a cruel perception out there that if you are a male and want to work with children there must be something wrong with you. In turn, this widespread view means many men just don’t bother to apply – and this is fundamentally wrong.’
Following an internal investigation into his own company made up of 81 nurseries, Mr Morris found that Asquith employs around 2,700 staff and yet there are only 87 men working directly with children.
Mr Morris is offering to help co-ordinate and chair a steering committee comprising of nursery sector stakeholders who are keen to effect change.
This call for change is also being voiced by the Pre-School Learning Alliance in its new book The XY Factor: Addressing Gender Issues in the Early Years.
Published by the Alliance, it argues that the presence of male childcare professionals not only challenges stereotypes in the early years sector but also acts as a catalyst encouraging more fathers to get involved in settings.
The book by Tim Kahn, inclusion officer at the Alliance, stresses the importance of having young children grow up seeing men active in caring roles, both as fathers and as childcare workers. This is key to correcting the misperception that caring is women’s work rather than human work, the book argues.
Mr Khan said, ‘We talk about such concepts as increasing the number of men in the child- care workforce or boys’ underachievement, but these are complex issues and need addressing on many levels.
‘We hope this book will drive the men in childcare debate forward and encourage early years settings to think more seriously about the roles men could play.’