Men currently only make up around 2% of the UK’s early years education staff – and this is a figure which has not changed for several decades.

The Economic and Social Research Council at Lancaster University, have funded a new study to get a better understanding of the barriers men face when taking up employment in early years settings.

The team, led by Dr Jo Warin, from the University’s Educational Research department, will work with the Fatherhood Institute to find solutions which can help the early years education (EYE) workforce to diversify most effectively.

The GenderEYE (Gender Diversification in Early Years Education) team will work with EYE professionals in four English locations, who are interested in boosting the number of men working in early years, and who take part in supporting the ‘Men in the Early Years’ regional networks.

The research team will also work with professionals from Norway, which has the highest percentage of males working in EYE (around 10%). Norway has a ‘gender equality action plan’ which strives to increase the percentage of males working in childcare settings to 20%.

The focus of the research will be on best practice recruitment, support and retention.

GenderEYE attended a knowledge exchange at Queen Maud University College, Trondheim, the leading organisation preparing teachers for roles in early years education. The team will share their learning with colleagues and set up eight different settings for their case studies.

The team will also create a survey targeting a bigger sector to get more data on male recruitment and retention.

Dr Warin said to Psych.org: “The study will provide a much-needed evidence-base for understanding what men’s contribution is, and what it could be.

“There’s a growing sense that the UK needs to rethink its approach on this: the lack of gender-diversity in our EYE workforce has been allowed to go unchecked for too long. We hope that by focusing on what’s worked in Norway, we can develop some clear, achievable strategies for accelerating the pace of progress,” said Dr Jeremy Davies from the Fatherhood Institute.

From the knowledge exchange event, initial findings suggest that with government support and a little effort, the success seen in Norway could, slowly and steadily be replicated, leading to a change of direction and improvement in the number of males in our own EYE workforce.

Key points from the event:

  • Norway has a big equality plan which includes everything from paternal leave and free childcare, to ways to remove the gender-pay-gap and their target is to increase males in EYE to 20%.
  • Government funding was designed especially for the purpose of supporting male recruitment at a local and regional level.
  • The importance of strong leadership and the advantages of a mixed-gender workforce was emphasised.
  • Retention can be improved with good support and networking opportunities for male practitioners.

Provided by: Lancaster University, Story by: Phys.org

A recently-published book by David Wright and Simon Brownhill, entitled “Men in Early Years Settings: Building a Mixed Gender Workforce” has highlighted the problem of the gender imbalance in the early years workforce. Read our article here.

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