Updated: Aug 13, 2020
For a long time now there has been a big drive to bring more men to the early years sector. Making up just 2% of the workforce, men play a vital part in the drive to deliver quality care for little people. With support from early years leaders such as June O’Sullivan (London Early Years Foundation) and organisations such as the Fatherhood Institute, the sector strives to break down barriers and promote male practitioners in the early years sector. There are also more local organisations such as Men into Childcare York and Bristol Men in Early Years who undertake talks and events at Secondary Schools and Colleges to promote the workforce as a career choice to male school leavers.
From a personal perspective, I feel that there needs to be more done at a Government level to break down the stigma and promote more attraction to the early years sector for men, as well as women, such as pay and conditions. More recently there has been a pledge by organisations such as the Early Years Alliance and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years to urge the Government to give early years practitioners the same pay as teachers. Many talented and long-standing colleagues are leaving the profession for better paid and less-stressful jobs. A study by the National Centre for Social Research found that the number of practitioners qualified to Level 3 has plummeted by 31% in recent years to just 52%.
In addition to the Government taking action to increase pay and other benefits to make early years an attractive career choice for men, we also need to refine some of the terminology used when thinking about recruitment, such as the term ‘nursery nurse’. This outdated term is still used everyday within the sector and is found on many job adverts. Using a more diverse title, such as Early Years Practitioner or Early Years Educator, will help reduce the stigma of working in early years and encourage more people to take the profession as a serious career choice.
I have worked in early years for 13 years, 11 of which have been in a management capacity. Childcare was never something I imagined myself doing as a career, until I picked my brother up from his after school club one day and the manager invited me for an interview. I have been very lucky that, so far, there have been other male practitioners working in every early years setting I have worked in. In my experience, it seems easier to recruit male practitioners if there is a male early years leader or manager.
My true passion within the sector is mentoring and leading other practitioners, helping them to become outstanding educators and sharing the experiences I have learned through my career so far. Aside from managing a nursery I have developed a training and consultancy business, offering both statutory training as well as ongoing CPD training for staff in early years settings. I have recently written an article that aims to support early years leaders and managers when mentoring new staff and apprentices. I urge anyone, male or female, who is considering early years education as a career choice, to seek support and guidance, and find out as much about the sector as they can. Working with the under 5's is not just about painting and nappy changing, there are so many opportunities within the sector, from training and compliance to management and business development.
When organisations like The Key really start to open up the debate around men in the sector, we can truly begin to push the boundaries and encourage more diversity into the early years arena.
Dan Sissons, Owner and Director of Tykes Training, has worked within the early years workforce for over 13 years. With current day to day, hands on experience managing a full day nursery based in North Yorkshire, Dan brings the most up to date knowledge and continues to practice what he is teaching to others.
Dan’s passion is to mentor and support those that are just starting out in their early years career, as well as those that are wishing to up skill and progress to their next role.