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).
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.