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Men are put off from working in childcare because they fear they will be regarded as paedophiles due to high-profile child abuse cases such as the Jimmy Saville scandal, according to the London Early Years Foundation.
June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) spoke at the launch of its London Network for Men in Childcare. The network aims to give support to men working in childcare and encourage more men to work in the early years sector.
Currently only two per cent of childcare workers in the UK are male.
Yet it is vital to encourage more men to join the childcare profession according to Ms O’Sullivan who added: “Research shows there are huge benefits from having men in nurseries, such as providing male role models, eradicating gender stereotypes and helping fathers engage with their children.”
“But it is sadly the case that men are being put off joining the profession for fear that they will be viewed as paedophiles or abusers. High profile child abuses such as the Jimmy Saville scandal will fuel ignorant prejudices and risk deterring men from pursuing hugely rewarding careers in childcare.”
She added that “the launch of the London Network for Men in Childcare is an important step towards a gender balanced workforce which is in the best interests of children”.
There are 24 LEYF nurseries and they have a reputation for employing more male practitioners in its nurseries than is normally the case across the sector.
The LEYF launched its report ‘Men in childcare: Does it matter to children? What do they say?’ at the first ever London Network for Men in Childcare event.
Ms O’Sullivan has been interested in this issue for a while and has found standard responses across the early years sector for the low number of male nursery workers include poor pay, lack of promotion opportunities, poor status, fear of accusations of abuse and paedophilia, discomfort working in such a highly female work environment and an expectation that one man can address the shortfall of positive male roles in so many children’s lives.
This is borne out by the findings in the report which revealed more than half of nursery workers (51 per cent) think men are discouraged from pursuing a career working in childcare because of ‘society’s attitude’ and 60 per cent believe men are not encouraged to join the profession by others, or do not feel comfortable working in a mainly female environment. Only 28.6 per cent said pay is a deterrent.
The report reveals that men’s interest in working with children grows as they age.
It also found that staff have a perception that male staff do not add any value to reading stories or singing. Yet for boys attending nursery, especially those who do not have a male role model at home to read to them, having a male reading role model can be invaluable. Especially in light of the statistics showing girls are ahead of boys at reading in both primary and secondary school and the idea that is all too prevalent that reading is for girls.
Previous research (Ipsos Mori) found the British public is broadly in favour of men working within the childcare profession, with 77 per cent in favour and only 12 per cent against, whilst the Major Provider Group Survey (2011) noted that almost all (97.8 per cent) of female childcarers in day nurseries said they would value having male childcarers working alongside them as part of their team.