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In recent years, it has become more widely accepted that there are men working in nurseries and preschools across the UK, yet still only two per cent of the childcare workforce are actually male.
Alan Crawford is one of two male senior practitioners at The Co-operative Childcare Leamington Grove Nursery, looking after children aged from three months to five-years-old.
After almost seven years in the industry, he understands the importance of young children having both male and female role models in a setting who can both support, encourage and develop the children's learning.
Why did you decide to work in childcare?
"During my work experience placement whilst at secondary school, I was placed in a nursery and found it so rewarding. I was often told by my teachers I was a natural at supporting others and I really felt I was making a difference to someone else’s life," he said.
It was this experience, combined with his teachers’ encouragement, that made Mr Crawford decide to enrol on the Level 2 childcare training qualification so he could qualify to work in a nursery when he left school.
"I enjoyed everything about the course and seeing the children succeed and gain confidence was the best feeling in the world. Being surrounded by like-minded people only made me want my dream job even more."
What is it like being a male nursery practitioner?
"Some people are surprised to find out that I work in childcare as they can view it more as a career for women, but I’ve been in the industry for a number of years and it’s not that unusual at all. I am treated the same as everyone else, with the same amount of opportunities and chances to progress, without any stereotypical views."
He added: "Toddlers’ development and interpersonal skills are in part shaped through their social interactions both in and outside the home, so having access to this gender balance in a childcare setting has a real positive impact on them.
"I encourage both boys and girls to engage in activities in the room, no matter what they think are supposedly boys’ toys or girls’ toys. I teach and demonstrate that you can do and play with whatever you want and am quite happy to dress up as a princess if the occasion calls for it."
What does your role involve?
"As a nursery practitioner, I make sure the children are safe, secure and developing where they should be, by following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Ofsted requirements. I am also a quality support practitioner for the Co-operative Childcare, which involves supporting other practitioners and nurseries in the business so we continue to deliver the highest standard of care.
"My biggest role, which covers all age groups and is the most important to me, is to be a good role model for the children; someone they can look up to."
What is a typical day like at the nursery?
"The foundation of daily life is the same, with planning and making sure high standards are met, but every day is different. You never know what you are going to be doing because the children’s interests change so quickly - one minute you could be doing hairdressers and the next you could be flying to space in a rocket."
What do you most like about your job?
"The thing I like the most about my job is watching the children grow and develop. Seeing the children succeed and being proud of themselves is the best thing in the world - it is priceless.
"Alongside the children succeeding, the most rewarding part of my day is knowing that the children all had fun. I believe that the best way that the children learn is through fun and exciting activities. When their parents come to collect them and they run over to them saying what they have done, excitedly and proud, it makes my job worthwhile.
"The children I work with are real characters, making each day different and interesting, and I can honestly say I love going in to work each morning."
What qualities and skills do you need to do your job?
"You have to be patient, have an imagination, enthusiasm, be willing to learn yourself and approach each day with an open mind."