I give full credit to Simon Brownhill, the co-author of our forthcoming book on Men in Early Years, for the great title of my workshop for this conference – Pride and Prejudice.
When Simon suggested this, I immediately realised how it aptly encapsulates the tension between the joy, fulfilment and freedom to be oneself that are the mark of professional identity enjoyed by those men and women who make a success of their Early Years Teaching career, and the gender stereotypes that mark out ‘childcare’ as an exclusively female domain in the general consciousness, with the attendant suspicion of and resistance to the inclusion in the Early Years workforce of those who are deemed not to fit the mould.
Our own recent research, revisiting parental attitude about men working in the Early Years sector, has provided fascinating insights into cultural beliefs in England in 2017.
In my workshop, I will be sharing the results of our survey. We will explore together what we can learn from them and what practical actions we can take in our own context to address the issues identified.
Some of the attitudes expressed by respondents to our survey may be considered extreme, irrational or outmoded, but we need to be honest about the ‘state of the nation’. We can’t just ignore how people feel, and it is feelings that drive decisions, policy and practice.
We have a long way to go but I am convinced that we can and are starting to make a difference. It has been heartening recently to see the way in which the mainstream media has picked up on the story. We will continue to push the Government to provide leadership but it is what happens day by day in each setting and organisation that has real impact.
When families tell their friends how much their child enjoys building relationships with the men and women at nursery, it starts to change opinions and values. It is what each of us does every day that matters.
We are the ones who have the privilege of supporting our youngest children to develop affirmative attitudes regarding inclusion, tolerance, equality and diversity and to build positive images of themselves. I trust we see this is an encouragement rather than a daunting responsibility?!
David Wright is the owner of Paint Pots Nurseries, at Southampton based group of Early Years settings. Alongside this, he is an advocate for Men in Early Years. In this capacity, he is active in the promotion of and support for a more balanced-gender Early Years workforce. David is one of the founders of the local support group Southampton Area Men in Early Years (SAMEY) who organised the first ever UK national Men in Early Years conference in 2016.
BMIEY are a city wide network of men and women who work with children aged from birth to seven. Consisting of Early Years Practitioners, Teachers, Head Teachers, Governors, Childminders and Family Support Workers.They meet four times a year to share experiences and ideas as well as talk about current research and issues. Get involved with our next network meeting here.
The Third National Men in Early Years Conference, will take place Tuesday 10th July 2018 at City Hall, Bristol. Tickets here.