Parents want men in nurseries but male school leavers 'not interested' in childcare

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New research has found that while the majority of parents are in favour of men working in nurseries, most male students would not consider childcare as a career.

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The Major Providers’ Group, made up of 14 of the largest nursery chains in the UK, questioned 1,198 parents who use nurseries about their views on men working in childcare. Ninety-eight per cent said they were in favour of men caring for their children as trained childcare professionals.

This is nearly double the number of parents who, in a survey by the Children’s Workforce Development Council in 2009, said they would like their child to have a male childcare worker in their early years setting (News, 20 January 2009).

Despite this, findings from the Major Providers’ Group poll of 113 male school leavers aged 16-19 revealed that none of the students were considering childcare as a career.

The reasons they cited included not wanting to work in an almost all-female environment (54 per cent), concerns about what other people would think (50 per cent) and the low rate of pay (38 per cent).

Comments included: ‘I don’t want to look after other people’s children as a career when I will have my own’;  ‘The hours are long and working with a bunch of uncooperative children doesn’t appeal to me (my mum worked in childcare)’; and ‘I'm a man. And men don't look after children’.

A second survey of 19 male school leavers found that seven students were prepared to consider childcare as a career. Of these, two had previous experience of working with young children, and one said he was more interested in becoming a teacher in a primary school rather than a pre-school setting.

The findings follow the publication of the Government’s document-Supporting Families in the Early Years, last week, which outlines their intentions to tackle the ‘gender imbalance in the sector and make early education and childcare a viable career choice for all’ (News, 18 July 2011).

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘The Government must invest more in the next generation of childcare professionals. While it’s understandable that childcare may not be the first choice for 15- and 16-year-old boys, we found that when they had the opportunity to discuss this career, some viewed it as a positive option – especially if they had had prior experience of babysitting.

 ‘We heartily endorse the findings of the report published last week by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes which recommends that primary schools start to offer advice about career options to ten and 11-year-olds. This would be an opportunity to bring childcare onto boys’ career horizon at a younger age as the surveys show that most teenage boys and young men have embarked on their career path by the time they are 15. and unfortunately childcare is not on their list of career options.’