Claudio shared his insights into the organisation's mission, tackling the underrepresentation of men in early years education. During our conversation, we delved into the factors behind this problem, and highlighted how crucial male role models are for making education more inclusive and diverse.
I'm originally from Italy and moved to London at the age of 19 without a clear career path in mind. Just four days after arriving in the UK, I secured a job at a family-run nursery in Fulham where I embarked on my journey as an apprentice.
As a man in the early years sector, with no real experience to speak of (and my poor English!), I couldn't help but wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. The idea of venturing into a field mostly navigated by women was a bit intimidating, leaving me feeling like a fish out of water. I wasn’t completely sure about this path, but something inside me said it was worth the gamble.
After completing my Level 3, I climbed my way up to becoming a nursery manager where I realised my passion for creating a significant impact in the broader early years sector. I aspired to establish my own settings, infused with my personal vision. This led me to become an Ofsted-registered childminder, which later evolved into a Childcare Provider on Domestic Premises. You can catch a glimpse of my journey on my setting’s Instagram profile.
Sadly, the pandemic forced me to close my business, however, this period also gave me a chance to reflect on my career trajectory. I noticed a recurring challenge in all my professional endeavours: the scarcity of male colleagues in the field which inspired me to initiate what back then was a project, "Male Childcare & Teaching Jobs." It's a venture close to my heart, focusing on research, studies, training, recruitment, and networking. I'm currently dedicating my efforts to this project, working alongside other vital collaborators and community members to make a meaningful difference in the early years sector.
Male Childcare & Teaching Jobs is more than just an organisation; it's a movement. Born out of the stark underrepresentation of men in early years and primary education – where they make up just 3% and 14% respectively, compared to 33% in secondary – our platform champions the invaluable role of men in educational settings.
Our goal? To address the gender imbalance head-on. By advocating for more male educators in nurseries and schools, we're striving to build a more inclusive and diverse environment. Imagine a world where children benefit equally from the insights and care of both male and female educators. That's the future we're working towards.
Our focus isn't just on boosting numbers; it's about ensuring that men in these roles feel supported, valued, and integrated into their professional communities. For instance, we've just launched an innovative mentoring programme, featuring regular sessions led by established male experts in the industry. These sessions are more than just meetings; they're a beacon of guidance and support, each covering a specific educational topic, helping men navigate the unique challenges they face in this field.
We’ve also established an innovative e-learning platform. This platform is accessible to apprentices, educators, and leaders of all genders. It offers CPD-certified e-learning courses designed to expand knowledge and understanding about the inclusion of men in nurseries and schools. This resource is vital for those looking to enhance their skills and embrace the concept of gender diversity in education. For more information on these valuable learning resources, you can visit our e-learning platform.
The underrepresentation of men in early years education is influenced by various factors, and understanding these is key to bringing about change.
Lack of Role Models
The scarcity of men in these roles contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle, where the rarity of male educators deters new entrants. This is precisely why developing a culture of same-gender mentorship is crucial – to break this cycle and encourage more men to join and thrive in this fulfilling profession.
Cultural Perceptions and Stereotypes
Research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) in the UK underscores how societal norms often designate nurturing roles as more 'feminine'. Personally, I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable when it came to actions like picking up children or giving them cuddles. Being a man in such a role, I felt observed and judged, wary of the societal scrutiny that comes with these simple, caring acts.
Moreover, it's concerning that men in education often make headlines primarily in the context of safeguarding incidents. This negative spotlight reinforces harmful stereotypes and creates an environment of mistrust. As a sector, we need to challenge this narrative.
Perceived Prestige and Career Opportunities
Additionally, the early years industry is often not seen as a high-prestige career path. There's a widespread lack of awareness about the multitude of career opportunities that can arise from starting as a nursery apprentice. This lack of prestige and awareness can deter men, who might otherwise be interested, from pursuing careers in this sector.
We need to make more noise about these career options, both in the short and long term, to enhance the profile of early years as a profession. By highlighting these success stories and the range of opportunities available, we can shift perceptions and attract more men to this rewarding field.
Absolutely, my journey as a male educator in early years has been marked by several challenges and stereotypes.
Self-Awareness and Perception
Learning to be self-aware in a nursery setting was a skill I had to pick up quickly. I constantly felt the need to adjust my behaviour, anticipating how others might perceive me. It felt like I couldn't completely be myself, always carrying a sense of having to prove my worth.
Assumptions About Capabilities
Many colleagues initially assumed I wouldn't be able to handle certain nurturing tasks, like bottle-feeding babies or even washing up and cleaning. These tasks, often seen as women's domain, were areas where I had to prove my capability, time and again.
There was an incident where a parent requested that I not change their child's nappy, citing that even male family members didn't engage in such activities. Fortunately, I had a supportive manager who addressed this issue head-on.
Misconceptions About Sexual Orientation
Both colleagues and acquaintances often made assumptions about my sexual orientation based on my job and the way I interacted with children. It’s been an opportunity for me to proudly demonstrate that nurturing young children isn't confined to any particular sexual orientation or set of gender traits.
Moving to London from abroad and working in a predominantly female environment meant my social circle was largely composed of women. While I have no issue being around women, it did sometimes feel like I was an 'outsider' needing to take extra steps to fit in.
When it comes to having male role models in early years education, I can't stress enough how beneficial they are for children. Picture this: little ones seeing male educators doing things like comforting a child or leading story time – it’s a game-changer. It shakes up those old-school gender stereotypes and shows children that anyone can be nurturing. This is super important, especially with the Prevent Duty focusing on stamping out gender-related extremism.
Men bring their own unique spin to teaching, which is fantastic, they mix things up with different perspectives and teaching styles. The way male teachers handle things like discipline can be different too, adding a fresh approach to how things are done in the classroom. And all this variety isn’t just good for learning – it’s a slice of real life, mirroring the diverse world these kids are growing up in.
And let’s not forget the boys with special educational needs. Having a male teacher they can look up to can make a world of difference. Plus, seeing men in these roles helps all children dream big and think outside the traditional career box.
At Storal we champion diversity and believe in celebrating individuality. We don't want you to just fit in; we want you to be yourself too and bring your whole self to work. Join us in making a difference – we're recruiting across our group of nurseries. Visit careers.storal.com to find a role at a nursery near you and be part of a team that values every unique perspective.