On Friday, head teachers at the NAHT's annual conference (3-5 May) will vote to back a motion calling for more male teachers to be employed in the sector.
The motion calls on the Department for Education (DfE) to acknowledge the low numbers of men employed in early years and encourage it to work with the sector to identify ways to encourage more men.
James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said, ‘It’s important for all children to experience positive male role models, and to understand that men can be interested in education, science or reading, just as much as in football. A diverse early years workforce can help children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, to visualise their futures and fulfil their educational potential.
‘The lack of male teachers in early years is partly due to the perceived lack of status and importance this phase of education can have, and the subsequent lower pay early years roles can attract. This fails to recognise that early years education is one of the most vital moments in a child’s education, and the point at which attainment and life chances can be set.
‘We call on the Department for Education to recognise the importance of early years’ representation on school senior leadership teams and governing boards, as well as bring a stronger focus on early years pedagogy to initial teacher training in order to protect, strengthen and improve the quality of early years provision in schools.’
The motion follows a commitment in the Early Years Workforce Strategy to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining men in the early years sector. As part of this, a task and finish group has been set-up to consider diversity in the sector in more depth.
The 14-member group, which is chaired by David Wright, owner of Paint Pots Nurseries in Southampton, is to present the DfE with a report outlining the factors influencing the number of men in childcare and possible solutions to increase this.
David Wright said, ‘I am delighted that the NAHT have provided such a strong, supportive statement which clearly highlights the importance of the early years for our children, the importance of gender diversity in the workforce and the key areas to be addressed in achieving this.
‘My own recent research confirms earlier findings that the vast majority of parents understand and are supportive of the need for more males to work with children in the early years and yet there is still significant suspicion about the motives of any men doing so and the belief that this is not an appropriate role for them.
'It is important that we mitigate these barriers to recruitment through the promotion of examples of all types of men who are making a successful career as early years teachers, the boys and girls who benefit from relationships with them and the support they receive from parents. Without strong leadership both within organisations and from our Government, we are unlikely to see the change we so desperately need in our cultural perceptions that will enable gender diversity in our workforce at a time when we are struggling to recruit sufficient good people of either sex, to our teams.’