MITEY says it is hearing frequent stories from male early years practitioners whose employers have given in to parents’ demand for them not to be involved in intimate caregiving, such as changing their child’s nappy, because they are uncomfortable with the idea of a man doing it.
A male nursery manager from Liverpool said, 'I’ve had three cases where parents have objected to me toileting their kids. The first was a police officer – but in the end the child dealt with it for me, because they would only ever settle with me, so in the end the guy could see what a good relationship we had, and relented.’
A male early years practitioner said, ‘I have recently had parents request that male practitioners do not change or take their children to the toilet. I find this quite a tricky issue. Is it cultural? Is it a trust issue? Personally, it makes me feel like I am letting my colleagues down as I can’t give the care that I am paid to give and end up handing children over to other practitioners that the child may not know (but are female)! I do however feel I have to respect these views and not take them personally.’
MITEY’s project lead, Jeremy Davies, told Nursery World, ‘All too often settings are agreeing to this, for fear of offending people.
‘We have to put a stop to this. Apart from it being completely impractical from a workload point of view, it’s a terrible message to give to staff, parents and children, that men should be treated as “second class” caregivers.’
It follows a speech by Susie Owen, deputy director of early years at the Department for Education, at the recent MITEY conference in London, during which she advised delegates that if they are ‘required to respond to objections about a member of staff based purely on their gender, they should respectfully, but confidently highlight their policies and procedures for safeguarding children and be clear that parents cannot pick and choose who undertakes different activities based on whether they are male or female.'
She added, ‘We want you to all feel confident that you can do that, and we can bust those myths and really challenge those misconceptions where they appear.’
Building on this, MITEY is to produce a guide for settings on how to tackle parents’ concerns about male practitioners and will run an online support session next month.
During the conference, MITEY also launched a consultation asking the sector to give their views on goals it has identified for the campaign and add other areas they think need to be achieved.
Suggested long-term goals include:
- A national MITEY careers campaign
- High quality research into gender diverse early years workforces.
- National gender equality audit of careers advice services
- Local pilot of sustained action by early years employers to recruit male staff
- Clear training and career pathways for different groups of boys/men
- High-quality, annual reporting on the early years workforce by gender, age and ethnicity.
- Legislation/guidance to end gender-discriminatory policies on intimate care in early years.
- Programme of learning events for sharing best practice.
The consultation, which closes at the end of October, is available here under the MITEY goals.