by Meredith Jones Russell - Nursery World

The nursery group, which runs 37 nurseries across London, has launched a campaign for more men in childcare and championing gender inclusiveness.

LEYF is calling for:

  • widespread support and acceptance of men working in childcare across the early years sector;
  • recruitment of early years male role models as ambassadors to schools, colleges and career fairs;
  • the formation of a men in early years advisory group to meet twice a year to assess and monitor progress, and;
  • the creation of a professional development programme integral to the sector’s overall training strategy that recognises and rewards personal contribution from employees, regardless of gender.

The nursery group hopes the plan will help spearhead a drive to combat the recruitment crisis facing the sector.

In 2012, LEYF commissioned a survey that showed 61 per cent of staff said they felt the low numbers of men in the early years was because they were not encouraged to join the profession, while 52 per cent thought it was due to society’s attitude to men in childcare.

Other answers included poor status, fear of accusations of abuse and paedophilia, discomfort at working in such a highly female work environment, poor pay, lack of promotion opportunities, and an expectation that one man can address a shortfall of positive male roles in many children’s lives.

Five years on, new independent research by CEEDA of nearly 4,000 members of early years staff revealed just 5 per cent were male.

This represented an increase on Department for Education data from 2013 which indicated male childcare practitioners made up 2 per cent of the workforce.

June O’Sullivan, LEYF chief executive, said, ‘We need to widen the talent pool if we are to staff the early years sector with high-quality male nursery teachers and assistants. Studies show that children see little difference between the care provided by male teachers and that provided by their female counterparts.

‘Whilst the nature of modern work is changing, the perception that nursery teaching is not for men persists and the experiences of men in early years demonstrate how pervasive negative stereotypes remain. We now need a robust strategy in place that will affect culture change and shift attitudes for the better and for the sake of our children – and female teachers and assistants need to help drive this.