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Encouraging more men to consider working in childcare, is a new initiative launched by Asquith Day Nurseries’ chief executive officer, Andy Morris.
Championing this recruitment drive is male nursery nurse, Andy Nunns who works at Asquith’s David Lloyd Centre-based Asquith Moortown Pre-School & Day Nursery Andy said: “For me there is no better job in the world than being a nursery nurse. I have no plans to get into management because I don’t want to be sat in an office surrounded by paperwork – I just want to be with the kids. There is no greater reward in my career than a parent telling me that I have had an important influence in shaping their child’s life.”
He adds: “But the fact remains that this industry needs more males. I believe children need input from both genders. There are so many single parent families now where often boys don’t have a male role model at all. So our CEO’s mission to work with the government, other nursery groups and charities to promote male recruitment over coming months and years is a terrific thing. It’s an aspiration.”
Level 3 qualified Andy who lives with his partner and their 20 month-old son, has encountered discrimination in his chosen career path and this is why he feels this recruitment campaign is so important. He said “I know this might sound silly but I started in the business as a teenager and now I am still relatively young at thirty. But it worries me that when I am forty or fifty and still working as a male nurse - will some parents question why an older man is working in the childcare sector? It is just about perception. That is why we must have change and we must start now.”
On a positive note, Andy who is extremely popular with children, parents and colleagues, said: “One mum told me she thought I was far more of a man for doing the job I did than many men she knew in other jobs – and I constantly get that kind of support from everyone around me. I just hope it stays.”
Moortown mum Joanna Cannon says: “It has never crossed my mind there could ever be discrimination against superb male nurses like Andy.
“My three year old son Jacob has brittle bones and needs 1-2-1 supervision. Andy is just fantastic with him. He takes him to swimming lessons next door in the David Lloyd Centre and does gardening with him too. Andy is just so creative with him – I think it is very important that children have a mix of male and female staff.
“There are nurseries closer to our home but my husband and I are wheelchair users and in time Jacob will need a wheelchair too. Asquith makes sure we have full accessibility. And when it comes to the special needs provision cost, we know that Asquith gets no council funding for the 1-2-1 support, but they just do it anyway.
“Jacob will be at Moortown Day Nursery with Andy until he goes to school. We are very lucky to have a nursery like Asquith and a brilliant male nurse like Andy caring for our son.”
Asquith chief executive officer Andy Morris says: “We have some astonishing male staff at Asquith and Andy is one of them. There is a cruel perception out there that if you are male and want to work with children there must be something wrong with you.
“Research shows that less than 4 per cent of apprentices coming into our profession are male. If this is ever going to improve we must face up to the ‘dark side’ that we all know exists. It is the elephant in our room.
“Even at Asquith, where we have eighty one nurseries up and down the country and employ 2,800 staff - less than a hundred are male. It isn’t good enough. We know that in today’s society where many children are cared by single parents, it is vital for their children to have good male role models – like Andy Nunns.
“We believe that boys and girls need men and women. I have set up a new working group with other nursery companies and sector charities like Daycare Trust, to work with the government, local authorities, education specialists and others to increase male recruitment in the UK in the Early Years environment.”
Kathryn Smith, manager at Moortown Day Nursery adds: “Andy is an incredible character and there is a great warmth about him. He has been with us for nearly five years and the children and parents all love him. He just has an infectious enthusiasm for the job. He is qualified and totally committed to what he does. As soon as new parents meet him they just completely trust him – we often have mums that request Andy as the key carer for their child.”
But she adds: “The sad fact is that we just don’t get men applying for jobs. We have male chefs in the building and male cleaners so it’s just about changing the perception of the role of a male nursery nurse.”
Photo: Andy Nunns with Simon the donkey and children from Moortown Day Nursery
Interview conducted by Trevor Lansdown