Sarah Farquhar, of ChildForum, who has spent many years researching the role of men in ECE, says the issue of men working in childcare being associated with sex abuse was put to rest within the sector a long time ago and the Early Childhood Council’s comments are not helpful.
Yesterday, Early Childhood Council political lobbyist Peter Reynolds said that early childhood teaching was one of the most gender-segregated professions in the country, with men making up less than 2 per cent of teacher numbers in the sector.
“While an increasing number of New Zealand families would like men to be teaching their under-5s, the men are not there to be employed,” Mr Reynolds said.
He said there was a significant shortfall of men in early childhood and the primary school sectors and that scarcity was driven by the paedophile hysteria of the early 1990s.
However, Dr Farquhar said today that argument was put to rest at the first summit for men in early childhood education in 2007 organised by ChildForum.
“The early childhood sector has moved on and the percentage of male teachers since 2007 has started to rise again.
“The Early Childhood Council, while saying it does not agree with the idea, has nevertheless been keen to remind the public of the historically ugly 1990s argument that men in childcare are associated with sex abuse which may backfire and engender bias against the new generation of male teachers,” Dr Farquhar says.”
And blaming teacher training providers for not producing enough qualified male teachers is not helpful either.
Instead early childhood education services and the groups which support them would do better to think innovatively when working towards raising the number of men in ECE.
“There are many men who might consider a job in childcare given the right encouragement, particularly fathers and older men who might be thinking about a career change but who may not be able to spend three or four years obtaining a qualification without work,” Dr Farquhar says.
Early childhood centres can have as few as 50% qualified staff on their roll which leaves opportunities to employ unqualified male staff to provide them with a way into the sector.
The Wellington Kindergarten Association provides a great example of this with their recent scheme which saw young men employed in untrained positions alongside current centre staff providing an insight into how early childhood education works.
The Association took on eight young men, five or six of whom are now reported to be considering further training in ECE.
The Early Childhood Council would do better to get behind its group of members and help them develop management strategies for encouraging more men into the ECE sector and addressing sexism, Dr Farquhar says.
ChildForum is a national network providing fresh thinking, information and research on childcare and early childhood education. Teachers, owners and managers of early childhood services, as well as parents, education researchers, health professionals and child advocates are part of ChildForum. Our website is http://www.childforum.com