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Men can be nursery teachers too so why aren’t they?

  • Nursery
  • Teachers
Mike Hodgkiss
Mike Hodgkiss 03 June, 2018

Men can be nursery teachers too so why aren’t they?

 Early years education runs from birth until children are five, including preschools, nurseries and school reception classes. Of 400,000 early years educators, 98% are female. The starting salary for nursery practitioners is about £18k. In England, a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification is needed, which takes one to two years to complete, depending on experience.

This gender divide can be found all across the globe, and not just in the UK. We even see it in Scandinavian countries which have made gender equality a national priority. In Norway, for example, there has been an ambitious target set to try and have 20% of men working in childcare, with 10% achieved in 2008. But that figure is now falling. The reasons for this are unclear but are likely to be due to persisting and deeply held gendered attitudes.

Two out of three councils in England providing nursery services do not employ any men, How can diversity in the profession be improved?

“A lot of men don’t see it as a man’s job and a lot of men are not aware that the role even exists,” Jamel Campbell, who started teaching the under-fives 16 years ago, told Victoria Derbyshire.

He is still frustrated by how little status is given to his job. “People are entrusting their precious babies to us, to care for them and to teach them,” he says. “There is a lot of stigma based on negative stories – children being at harm… men not being nurturing, men not being able to work with children that small.” Jamel, who works for the London Early Years Foundation, says more men would be interested if they understood the benefits of a balanced workforce. “Some children out there may not have a male in their home, there needs to be balance, they need to have that interaction,” he says. “It breaks down that whole, ‘you have to be macho to be a male,’ thing. It shows them men can be silly, can play, make jokes, can give you a hug if you’ve fallen down.”

While the majority of nurseries are privately-run, some councils do still provide facilities. Of the 38 councils in England, Scotland and Wales which still have in-house nurseries, 26 do not hire a single male teacher. A year ago, a government report highlighted the lack of gender diversity in the early years sector.

It said employing more men would plug the gap in nearly 25,000 early year job vacancies and increase the number of male role models for children. It launched a task force to achieve this. Proposals made by David Wright, of Paintpot Nurseries in Southampton, who chaired the report, include:

  • improving pay and conditions
  • a national campaign promoting gender-diverse early years
  • more support for men on training and placements
  • to agree a target for the percentage of men in the workforce
  • to recommend that Ofsted could include gender diversity in their inspection criteria.

One school in east London has spent ten years ensuring male and female teachers spend an equal amount of time with the pupils to narrow the gap between the attainment levels of boys and girls. Bob Drew, headteacher at Gearies Primary school, said: “They see men as positives, men reading books, men talking about things and being successful in careers. There has been a tendency in the past for most of primary education being heavily dominated by women. It’s important they see men are nurturing, and not just sporting heroes.”