Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi has today announced a £30,000 grant to support the project, which is being run by the Fatherhood Institute and aims to reflect the diversity of ‘modern Britain’ in early years settings and provide more diverse role models for children before they start school.
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It is in direct response to recommendations from the task and finish group that was set up to meet a commitment in the Early Years Workforce Strategy to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining men in the early years sector. The 14-member group was chaired by David Wright, owner of Paint Pots Nurseries in Southampton.
The project will challenge the stereotypes that exist around men’s roles in early education using ‘relatable’ case studies from men who have left other careers to work in childcare settings, and spearhead a recruitment drive to get more men into the sector.
Currently men make up just 3 per cent of early years staff in England.
Careers advisers and early years employers across the country will be supported to recruit more men into early years settings by highlighting the positive roles they can play in a child’s crucial first years of life.
A national conference in September will also be held to further promote early years careers to fathers, other men with experience of looking after children and those with an existing interest in improving children’s early education.
Alongside this, the Fatherhood Institute will provide practical resources including mythbusters, how to guides and online content to support male recruitment into the profession, as well as online peer support for men already working in the sector.
Dr Jeremy Davies, head of communications at the Fatherhood Institute, who will lead the project, said, ‘We are delighted to be leading this work on behalf of the early years sector. Old-fashioned attitudes about caring and education being “women’s work” have no place in modern Britain – the world has moved on, dads are doing more hands-on childcare than ever before, and our nurseries and pre-schools need to catch up.
‘We want careers advisers and employers to reach out and support men into early years work – including dads and other men with experience of looking after children, and those who have the interest and skills to build on. We all understand the importance of helping women into STEM careers; this is the other side of the same coin.’
David Wright, owner of Paint Pots Nurseries, who is working closely with the Fatherhood Institute, added, 'The DfE has been supportive of our work and we are very grateful for the funding. It's all about challenging gender stereotypes that are very entrenched in society. Even if we increase the number of men in childcare by a couple of percent it will be an achievement.'
The project forms part of the Government’s wider efforts to give children the best start in life by strengthening the early years workforce, including the DfE’s £20 million Professional Development Programme to provide better training for early years staff working in deprived areas.
It also designed to contribute to the education secretary Damian Hinds’ wider ambition to halve the percentage of children who leave reception without early communication or reading skills, through support the early years sector and building on the national mission to support children’s learning at home.
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, ‘Every child needs a role-model to guide them – whether that’s a parent, a close family member or friend, or someone at nursery or preschool that makes a difference in their life. The early years staff who support children in the first few years of their education equip them with important skills before they reach the classroom, getting them on track to succeed as they get older.
‘Just as parenting is a shared responsibility, so is kickstarting a child’s love of learning. I want more men to play a positive role in educating and caring for our next generation. That’s why we’re supporting the Fatherhood Institute to encourage men from all walks of life into early years careers, to give children the best start in life and be a part of this important and rewarding sector.’