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Published by Riverside Training (Spalding) Ltd

The family model has altered radically over the last few decades, with many more fathers now actively engaged in caring for their children.

Yet, sadly, the Early Years sector does not reflect this sea change, with the workforce still female-dominated.

The proportion of men employed in Early Years childcare is a paltry 2% - a figure that has remained unchanged for many years.

This 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.

Not only is this outdated Early Years education matriarchy at odds with today's parenting, it has a negative impact on the developmental prospects of boys who lack a father figure at home and may not otherwise have a significant male role model.

And, it's not just about boys, the presence of a positive male role model is equally important for girls in their formative years.

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.

A career in caring is not just women's work.  Look at nursing, traditionally seen as a female role, which now attracts a sizeable percentage of men.

While there have been changes is equality legislation, the fact is that the UK doesn't have a coherent strategy in place to redress the Early Years gender imbalance.

Government targets and initiatives have come and gone in recent times without making significant inroads.

Way back in 1998 the Government Green Paper ‘Meeting the Childcare Challenge’ acknowledged 'Working with children is seen as a predominantly female occupation. Yet male carers have much to offer...'.

This paper set out the National Childcare Strategy which put in place a target of 6% male practitioners by 2004. This was later dropped.

Nearly 20 years on, women still make up 98% of the Early Years workforce and political posturing has not been translated into tangible improvements.

That's why I applaud David Wright, owner of the Paint Pots nursery group in Southampton.

Last year he organised the first national Men in Early Years conference and wants to work with the Government on reinstating a national target of male nursery practitioners that the sector can aim towards.

The Government can help achieve this gender diversity goal by getting the message out that childcare is a credible and rewarding option for men, with the opportunity for personal and professional progression within the sector.

At Riverside Training we are seeing 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.

As a company we will continue to advocate the important role of men in Early Years and actively encourage and support them as they take their first steps, or progress, on this fantastic career path, unconstrained by gender stereotypes.

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