Why aren’t more men in childcare?

Per the latest figures from the Productivity Commission, the early childhood and education (ECEC) sector is 98% female. So, it’s no wonder that whenever we walk into a nursery or pre-school we subconsciously expect to see women working with children. On the rare occasion that we do see a man we’re always left feeling somewhat surprised.

Although there are an increasing number of fathers becoming more and more involved in the early years of their children’s lives, there is still a stubbornly low number of men working with young children as their profession.

This blog aims to provide some insight into the reasons why there aren’t more men in childcare.

Gender Stereotyping

Gender stereotyping could be the biggest reason why a lot of men have either never considered working with young children as a viable career option, or been put off out of fear of being stereotyped. Even in 2017, there is still an assumption among many that childcare is a ‘woman’s job’.

Most training providers aim their childcare courses at women, which means that it can be very daunting for men to even consider attending a course where they might be the only male. It seems odd then, that there are plenty of male primary and secondary school teachers, because this would suggest that men are comfortable working with children and the only barriers are in the early years’ sector. This may be due to it being socially acceptable for men to work in teaching/education, and that there is still a ‘care job’ association that comes with childcare, despite many efforts to prove that teaching and learning is a critical part of each day at nursery.

Westhill Corner Day Nursery & Pre-school - Coundon, Coventry

Aaron Checkley, Nursery Practitioner at Westhill Corner Day Nursery & Pre-school

Perceived Risk

Unfortunately, some people see men as a potential safeguarding risk for children. Many nursery groups, including ourselves, are working hard to shift this attitude. And while many parents have openly said that they would be happy for a man to look after their child at nursery, we were all recently reminded that some work still needs to be done, following Andrea Leadsom’s comments in an interview with The Times in July 2016. Running for leader of the Conservative Party at the time, she said that:

“Most of us don’t employ men as nannies, most of us don’t. Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats. Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man. We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.”

Although these comments are disappointing to read, fortunately most people have rejected these comments and share our view that both men and women have the right to work with young children.

What’s it like to be a male nursery practitioner?

We spoke with Aaron Checkley at Westhill Corner Day Nursery & Pre-school, who is currently working towards his Level 3 qualification in Childcare and Early Years Education, about what it’s like to be a male nursery practitioner and why he chose a career in childcare.

Why did you decide to choose a career in childcare?

I had always wanted to work with children since I was about 11. Originally, I had wanted to be a teacher but as I got older I explored different career options with children and decided on being a nursery practitioner.

Was childcare a career path that was ever suggested to you?

It was suggested to me by my teacher at school, Mrs Donohue. She thought I would work well with younger children.

98% of people working in childcare are female. Why do you think there aren’t more men in childcare?

I think there aren’t many male nursery practitioners because caring for and working with younger children is often stereotyped as being a ‘woman’s job’.

Westhill Corner Day Nursery & Pre-school - Coundon, Coventry

Aaron Checkley, Nursery Practitioner at Westhill Corner Day Nursery & Pre-school

What is it like to be a male nursery practitioner?

It’s a very rewarding job, however it can be hard at times because a few of the children I’ve worked with don’t have a lot of contact with men, and some parents can take time to build a working relationship with.

What has been your best day at nursery so far and why?

I would say my best day at nursery so far would have to be my 19th birthday. All of the children surprised me by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me – I was not expecting it at all.

The benefits of male nursery practitioners

We strongly believe that both men and women have important roles to play in a child’s life, particularly in the early years. Although the most important qualities we look at when recruiting staff are their passion for working with children, their qualifications and their capacity to learn, there are some unique benefits that only each gender can bring. It is a shame then that there is such a low number of men working in nurseries, because it means that many children are missing out on developing relationships with male figures in nursery.

Male Role Models

As there are so many female nursery practitioners, it’s easy for young children to become familiar and comfortable in trusting them, because they are constantly provided with inspiring female role models outside the home.

But many children attending nurseries, particularly those who are from a single-mother household, tend to have very few positive interactions with men. Male nursery practitioners, therefore, can be vital in providing children with a positive male figure and a more rounded understanding of what being a male adult is all about.

Gender Attainment Gap

A recent study by Gants Hill Partnership Teaching Alliance contains findings which suggest that a nursery workforce containing more male staff can increase the attainment of boys, helping to close the gender gap in attainment.

The research took place within the school’s early years’ provision, where they increased the percentage of male nursery workers to 44% (56% female). These were the findings:

  • Boys attainment was 16% higher than the Borough average.
  • Boys attainment was 8% higher than girls in Personal Social Emotional development
  • Boys attainment was 3% higher than girls in Communication and Langauge
  • Boys attainment was 17% higher than girls in Physical Development
[Source: Gants Hill Partnership Teaching Alliance]

Read the full research study here.

If you found this blog interesting and want to learn more about nursery education, why not read our other post, Thinking of moving to a school nursery?

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