While an increasing number of New Zealand families would like men to be teaching their under fives, the men are not there to be employed, says an early childhood organisation that represents 1100 centres nationwide.

Chief Executive of the Early Childhood Council, Peter Reynolds said today that early childhood centres would employ many more male teachers if such teachers existed. And he called for teacher trainers ‘to get more active in the promotion of our sector to men’.

The absence of men from early childhood centres robbed from families the right to choose male teachers, Mr Reynolds said. But it could not be remedied by early childhood centres on their own, ‘because you cannot employ male teachers who do not exist’.

Early childhood teaching was one of the most gender-segregated professions in New Zealand, Mr Reynolds said, with fewer than two per cent of teachers being men.

‘Such segregation would not be tolerated in law or medicine. And it is unacceptable in a sector with the fundamentally important job of helping ensure our youngest of children arrive at school ready to learn’.

Even a small increase in numbers of male teachers would benefit thousands of children and families, Mr Reynolds said.

‘It would, for example, impact the many children who lack a reliable male figure in their lives, and especially those who have little but bad experiences of men.’

The absence of men from both primary and early childhood education had seen thousand of such children effectively quarantined from all but the most destructive of males, Mr Reynolds said. And the results had been ‘disastrous’.

An increase in numbers of male teachers had been achieved in countries such as Scotland, Norway and Denmark and it could be achieved in New Zealand ‘if we summoned the commitment’.

Such change would provide valuable encounters with safe men for women and children whose experiences of men had been anything but safe, he said. It would benefit boys who were more responsive to ‘male’ interactions. And it would help teach boys that nurturing was part of the male job description.

Mr Reynolds said ‘the paedophile hysteria’ of the 1990s had caused many good men to disengage from caring for children.

‘But the worst of that nonsense is over, and there is now a renewed desire from both families and centres for there to be many more men working in the early childhood sector.’

The Early Childhood Council is the largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres in New Zealand. Its 1100 member centres are both community-owned and commercially owned, employ more than 7000 staff, and care for more than 50,000 children.