Andy Morris, Asquith CEO, said that male staff recruitment is a serious concern for every player in the business. ‘Research shows that less than 4 per cent of apprentices are male. If this is ever going to improve we must all be prepared to face up to the "dark side" that we all know exists. It is the elephant in the room.’
He added, ‘The fact is this industry is sexist. If you happen to be a male working with children some people are always going to put the nasty card on the table and question your motives.
‘This is a fundamental issue. Our male staff can be discriminated against and the industry affords very little protection.’
Male practitioners corroborate that parental suspicion about them is a real problem. Practitioner Joe Wilkinson said, ‘I love working with children, but I am very aware that the way things are I am at risk. I have seen parents at open days asking if all members of staff change nappies and they are looking at me when they ask.’
David Hancock, managing director of the Treetops chain, reported that he employs just four males out of a total of 800 staff, and that those males have been with him for a long time. ‘The fact is, it’s just not cool for a man to work in a nursery, so we all need to look at how to change that perception.’
The need to address the gender imbalance in the workforce is supported by Anand Shukla, CEO of the Daycare Trust, who attended the meeting. ‘We’ve been advocating this policy for some time and we are delighted to see partners from the sector taking this forward. We look forward to working alongside Asquith and others to increase the number of men working in early years. There is clear evidence that taking steps to increase the presence of males in this sector will bring tangible benefits to children, families and society as a whole.’