Articles focused on childcare and babysitting / babysitters plus nannies, pre-school and nursery.

You what, more men working in childcare?

I don’t wish to get too excited, but over the past year I’ve noticed increasing debate within the childcare industry about the role of men. In short, there seems to be a consensus that more male practitioners are needed in the workforce.

Just to give you some idea of the gargantuan task the industry faces, only 2% of childcare workers in the UK are male. It’s a similar story in primary schools where the male proportion of the workforce in England stands at around 12% (according to the General Teaching Council).

childcare, men, nursery worker, nursery, child minder, stereotypes, stereotypes, gender, gender rights, equality, masculism, feminism

A photograph of a man..working in a childcare setting!

This isn’t the first time I’ve written on this subject. It’s an ongoing issue but one I’d like to think is being taken increasingly seriously by childcare providers, parents and policy makers.  

The latest organisation to wade into this debate is The Co-operative Childcare (The Co-operative provides childcare services? No, I didn’t know either!). Wishing to challenge gender stereotypes, it has launched a campaign called Real Men Work In Childcare.

With 50 Nurseries across the UK, The Co-operative Childcare plans to increase its male workforce to 10%. It also wants to see at least one male colleague in every Co-operative Childcare nursery. 

To achieve this, it’s going to partner with job centres and recruitment agencies to explain the benefits of being a practitioner. It will also visit colleges and schools to educate young people making their career choices.

Mike Abbott, General Group Manager at The Co-operative Childcare, said: “Gender stereotypes in childcare are holding some men back from what could be the perfect career path for them where they can positively influence our next generation. Children need to be around both male and female adults to develop their core skills, become well rounded young people and continue to flourish.

“We are determined to make a marked difference to the male to female ratio in our nurseries by leading the way in challenging these preconceptions that are damaging the industry and championing that ‘real men’ really do work in childcare.”

Thankfully the Co-operative is not alone. I’ve previously sought advice from a fantastic group of childcare practitioners who make up the Men in Childcare London network. Surrey County Council has also taken measures to encourage men into the industry with its Men in Playwork Early Education and Childcare initiative.

The question for you, dear reader, is what you think about a childcare workforce that features more men? Would you see it as an encouraging sign if your child’s nursery nursery had male employees? I certainly hope so, or else you’re reading the wrong blog.

How not to treat conjunctivitis

There is no point to this blog post. It is not a call to action or a demand that policy makers do stuff to make life for parents easier. It is simply a tale of how I struggled to get my daughter some basic medical treatment when she caught conjunctivitis.

Crucially, it is not a criticism of the National Health Service (NHS). I can hardly blame the NHS for the blocked roads or lost parking ticket that complicated matters.

waiting room, hospital, A&E, paediatrics, conjunctivitis, health, family health,

Images such as this bring back such incredibly happy memories.

So what happened? Well, having picked up my eldest daughter from school, I then picked up my youngest daughter from nursery to find yellow puss had just started pouring from her eyes.

It was clearly conjunctivitis and we all know the rules; your child cannot return until he/she is receiving treatment for the condition. It was almost 4pm and it what was one of those occasions where Elizabeth had to go to nursery the next day. My wife couldn’t help as she was at work and would remain there until about six that evening.  

I immediately called the GP. Ever sympathetic to my plight (sense the sarcasm), the earliest the receptionist would give me an appointment was well into the next morning. My next move was to call every pharmacist I could think of with a pulse. None of them would entertain the idea of assisting me without a prescription on account of my daughter’s age.

There was a hospital a couple of miles north of me that I knew took children. Getting there, however, would be impossible because the road to it was flooded. One of the pharmacists reminded me of another nearby hospital with a Minor Injuries Unit (MIU). Loaded down with both kids, I dashed straight to it.

Alas, the receptionist kicked us out instantly. The MIU did not treat anyone under the age of 18. This meant one thing; travelling to a nearby teaching hospital. I knew this one could treat children and so off we went.

By now the kids were getting restless. We’d wasted the best part of an hour and a half and it wasn’t that long until Elizabeth’s bed time. All was going well, we were within a couple of miles of the hospital when we hit upon another snag. This road was also closed, almost certainly due to flooding.

Thank goodness for sat navs. It took us to our destination, although it took much longer than it should have done.

We arrived at the hospital and I got Elizabeth checked in. The three of us were sent through to the paediatric A&E. It was heaving with one family dominating the whole place, their three boys, shall we say, in an excitable mood. This is not what I needed.

By now it was Elizabeth’s bed time so she was now grumpy. I hadn’t been expecting any of this so I had no nappies or milk. Big sister was not happy either. After half an hour and having been told by two incredibly young members of the medical team we faced a “very long” wait, I discharged Elizabeth and we left.

I got as far as the car park. I’d lost the car parking ticket. By this point I was having a sense of humour failure. We had to wait for the car parking attendant to let us out. Thankfully he was a good guy and didn’t charge me.

When we got home, my wife was waiting for us. She took big sister off my hands and I got baby ready for bed and gave her milk. This time I returned to hospital and baby comfortably slept in her push chair for two hours while we waited to see a practice nurse.

I was given sensible medical advice but after all of that, was not issued with a prescription. Common sense dictates the advice I was given shall not be made public, suffice it so say it was a tad unorthodox and worked.

We returned home at 10.30pm. There endeth my story.  Anyone relate to this?


Goodbye nursery, you dear old friend…



If only we could all go to nursery.

If only we could all go to nursery.

Like many children across the UK, my daughter will be starting school any day now and so has left nursery ready to make the leap into reception class. She’d been going to this nursery for three years and so knew all the staff and had made a number of friends.

Bizarrely, the experience of leaving nursery seems to have been much tougher on me than on Helen. When I picked her up on her last day I felt oddly bereft. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend that was emigrating.

There were no tears or upset from Helen. Just a casual “today was my last day” and the following morning she said “I don’t go to nursery any more.” It may be the reality hasn’t sunk in yet and the tears and tantrums are yet to come. Thus far, however, all is quiet on the home front.

I’ve always felt a bit guilty that we’d sent Helen and latterly her younger sister to nursery (little sister goes to a different nursery). Helen used to go full time and it was discomfort with this situation that persuaded me to give up my job and become her main carer, at which point she became a part-time nursery brat.

Once Helen was in nursery, however, we could see the benefits she was receiving and there was no way we could deprive her of it. At the time she was an only child and so she got the opportunity to mingle and learned the importance of sharing and socialising with others of a smilar age.

My mother tells me I barely touched a pencil before I was five years old. Not so Helen. She’s done her share of drawing and scribbling at home with mummy and daddy but it’s the skill of the nursery staff that have got her writing the alphabet (well, selected bits of it anyway). As for her numeracy, she didn’t get that from her innumerate parents.

The skill of these staff is something that should be recognised and it annoys me that childcare is an occupation with such poor status. I can think of one particular nursery worker that took Helen under her wing.

This individual originally came from a French-speaking nation. She picked up on the fact that Helen has some French heritage and started casually talking to her in French. It was all simple phrases; “ca vas”, “bonjour” and so on. It had always been my intention to ensure my children spoke more than one language and when it became clear Helen was picking up the basics of French I arranged for Helen to have lessons and she’s doing incredibly well.

I could, of course, make the odd criticism. The occasion I turned up at nursery to find two of Helen’s little friends had got hold of some craft scissors and restyled her hair didn’t go down too well. As my wife said at the time; “she looks like a German exchange student.”  

Following this incident my wife and I had a Soprano’s-style sit down with management and made clear that three year old children shouldn’t have uninhibited access to scissors. They listened and scissor use was regulated from that point on. The fall-out was dealt with very well and there was no repeat performance. At the end of the day, children will be children.

I think the experience of Helen leaving nursery has made me realise just how important good quality childcare is. It’s done a lot for Helen and I’m sure her little sister will benefit in a similar way. It’s come at a price, but it’s a price that’s been worth paying.

Making childcare appeal to men

I’m a bit slow off the mark to comment on this subject, but I am wondering if the Government’s proposals for childcare might include a little nugget that we should applaud. Before I launch into this subject, let me make clear that I’m against plans to increase childcare ratios.

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