Outrage over Leadsom's comments that male childcarers might be paedophiles

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The early years sector has been outraged by comments made by Andrea Leadsom, the new environment and rural affairs secretary, who claimed that men who worked in childcare might be paedophiles.


Andrea Leadsom's comments about male childcarers have shocked the sector

The remarks were made during the same interview with The Times in which the then Tory leadership challenger claimed that she would be a better PM than Theresa May because she was a mother.

It was after this interview that Mrs Leadsom pulled out of the Tory Leadership race.

The Times has now published the comments she made at the time about men working as nannies.

In the interview she said, ‘As an employer we’re not, let’s face it, most of us don’t employ men as nannies, most of us don’t. Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats. Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man, We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.’

Last night a source close to Mrs Leadsom said that she had had a male nanny for five years and was not suggesting that men could not be good nannies.

Early years sector organisations and nurseries have condemned the comments. 

David Wright, owner of Southampton nursery group Paintpots and organiser of the first national Men in Early Years conference, said, ‘The work we’re doing is trying to change the culture in society in general. For a politician of her stature and position giving that message to the country demonstrates the mountain we have to climb. I’ve experienced similar comments from local authorities. The Government needs to get its act together. The facts are that some men are paedophiles – you can’t extrapolate that to all men are paedophiles.

‘I’m very clear that safeguarding is not a gender issue. I’m saddened by it and it’s irresponsible. Particularly because some children are suffering because they don’t have the involvement of fathers – it demonises men.’

Victoria Flint, director of communications at PACEY said, ‘We are shocked and appalled at reported comments made by Andrea Leadsom inferring that men working in childcare pose a risk to children. As the professional association representing childcare professionals for almost 40 years we have seen significant growth in the number of men working in the early years sector, a trend we want to see continue. We know from many of the families working with our male nursery workers, nannies and childminders that men provide positive strong role models for the children in their care.  These comments are outrageous, and are totally out of step with the reality of the workforce.

‘By choosing registered childcare, parents automatically have reassurance that rigorous checks have been made and recruitment processes followed – safeguarding children is central to high quality early years education.

‘Childcare providers, whether men or women, strive every day to create happy, supportive settings in which children can thrive, learn and grow. It is extremely concerning that unhelpful opinions like this could further discourage entrants into the early years sector – a sector already facing a recruitment crisis.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We were shocked and disappointed to read Mrs Leadsom’s comments on men in childcare, as reported in the press this morning. No one should feel that their career choices are limited by their gender, and yet such outdated prejudices are not only insulting to those dedicated male practitioners currently working within the sector, but also act a barrier to more men entering the early years workforce.

‘With the impending introduction of the 30 hours free entitlement offer, staff recruitment is a key challenge for the sector and encouraging more men to consider a career in early years is likely to play an important role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the early years. It is important, therefore, that such baseless comments do not deter talented and dedicated potential practitioners from embarking on an incredibly rewarding career in the sector.’

Senior Professional Officer (Early Years & Childcare) Tricia Pritchard, from Voice, the education union, said, 'I am shocked and alarmed by these sexist, prejudiced and insulting comments, which could set back the progress being made in trying to recruit more men into childcare.

'Children need male as well as female role models. Both men and women are capable of providing excellent childcare, whether as nannies or in nurseries.

'There aren’t enough men in childcare, and Mrs Leadsom’s remarks have the potential both to damage the reputation of male childcare professionals already in the workforce and deter men considering childcare as a career.

'She should also remember that women can put children at risk too.

'We would urge Mrs Leadsom to retract these harmful comments and to distance herself from them.'

Stephen Tommis, CEO of Montessori St.Nicholas, which is encouraging more men into the profession with a bursary scheme, said, 'We would very much like to see more male teachers entering the Early Years profession. That is why, in our efforts to eradicate gender inequality, Montessori St. Nicholas charity has this year decided to allocate part of its Birts Bursary Awards to a male candidate who is in need of financial support to complete one of the MCI courses. This award can be worth up to £3000. It remains the case that our bursary award scheme is open to both male and female candidates who meet the criteria of need.'

Lucy Powell, a former shadow education secretary, told The Times, ‘These comments show an enormous lack of judgment on Andrea’s part. She should know as well as I know that not only are men just as capable of doing childcare jobs but we should want to encourage more men into those jobs as they can bring other benefits.’

A Downing Street spokesperson told Nursery World that in response to a question about whether the PM would employ a male nanny the PM’s spokesperson had said that Theresa May appointed people ‘on merit’.

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