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Back in 2001/2, there was a target to have 6% men in the UK's Early Years workforce by 2004, but it was never achieved.

The actual figure is a paltry 2% – having remained unchanged for several decades.

I've spoken previously about how the sector is still predominantly female, despite the fact many more fathers are now actively engaged in caring for their children.

Having male and female practitioners in a nursery setting gives children of both sexes a positive balance, discourages gender stereotypes and promotes different approaches to play.

However the under-representation of men is blamed on a number of reasons – from claiming the sector itself promotes 'jobs for the girls', a complacent political climate, perceptions promoted by the media and an ambivalent society which, despite making the right noises about the need for equality, still signs up to gender stereotyping.

Now the Fatherhood Institute has teamed up with researchers at Lancaster University’s Educational Research Department to investigate, both internationally and in the UK, how men are recruited, supported and retained in the Early Years education (EYE) workforce, as teachers and carers for pre-school children.

The Economic and Social Research Council is funding the GenderEYE (Gender Diversification in Early Years Education) project, due to start later this month, led by Dr Jo Warin working with Dr Jeremy Davies, of The Fatherhood Institute, together with a partner in Norway.

Why Norway? Because it has the highest percentage of male Early Years professionals in the world, currently 10% but with a target of 20% as part of a national gender equality action plan.

This is the first ever attempt in the UK to collate, collect and use research evidence in a systematic way, to support gender diversification of the ECE workforce.

Evidence gained will be used to produce a clear theoretical rationale and practical resources to enhance efforts to create more gender-diverse, gender-sensitive approaches.

The project will produce the evidence to impact on the quality of pre-school teaching, enhance young children’s capacity to challenge gender stereotypes, create career opportunities for men and challenge a gender-segregated employment market.

The team plans to publish a series of journal articles for the international Gender and Education and Early Years Education research communities and undertake conference presentations.

At Riverside Training we recognise the important role of men in Early Years and continue to see an increasing number of male students – just 1% when we launched 10 years ago, rising to an average of 6% in the last five years [CHECK - FIGURE WAS CORRECT IN MAY 2017].

Male or female, you can find out more about our courses and qualifications on our website or by calling us on 01775 710945.

  • The Fatherhood Institute [INSERT LINK] is the UK's fatherhood think-and-do-tank. The charity's vision is a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their father and any father-figures; supports both mothers and fathers as earners and carers; and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children.