For many years, Government targets to attract more men into childcare have been unsuccessful - they still only make up one per cent of the early years workforce. The pay and status of this work is certainly a deterrent in attracting men into the field and, without changes to these, we at the Pre-school Learning Alliance do not see the figures changing.
In addition, we also believe that the participation of fathers in care settings may positively influence the number of men who choose to enter the childcare workforce, following the model set by mothers who have, over the years, got involved first as mothers and then gone on to train as childcare workers. This is one of the reasons why the Alliance is developing a Father Involvement Project.
Initially we are conducting an audit to establish the extent of fathers'
involvement in pre-school settings. We will follow this up with in-depth focus groups in several settings to inform our action plan to support pre-school settings in taking steps to actively involve fathers in their activities with children.
Fathers are now taking on a greater share of childcare at home and the evidence of the benefits to children of their fathers' involvement is incontrovertible. A report from the EOC last year claimed that fathers were responsible for doing one-third of childcare at home. Yet fathers still rarely set foot in pre-school settings.
The challenge now is for such settings to make themselves 'father-friendly', to find ways of making the transition from female-dominated spaces to spaces that welcome both parents. This will not be easy, but if it will benefit children - as we believe it will - then it is important to promote any necessary changes.
Not only can the support from pre-school settings for fathers make a difference to families, but involvement of fathers could also play a part in impacting favourably on the gender composition of the childcare workforce.