Ma­jor new push aims to re­cruit more men into child­care roles

The Herald on Sunday - - 29.10.17 NEWS - BY KARIN GOOD­WIN

MORE men should be en­cour­aged to take up jobs in child­care in Scot­land ac­cord­ing to early years ex­perts, who claim that male em­ploy­ees are needed to boost the work­force and pro­vide pos­i­tive role mod­els for chil­dren.

The call comes as the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment launched a re­cruit­ment drive to at­tract an ad­di­tional 11,000 staff by 2020 in a bid to de­liver its prom­ise of 30 hours of free child­care each week.

Cur­rently the pro­vi­sion is 600 hours a year for all three and four-year-olds, or around 16 hours a week dur­ing term time. First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon has also claimed spend­ing on child­care is set to dou­ble to £840 mil­lion in the same time frame.

Re­cruit­ment ma­te­ri­als, as well as ads on TV and so­cial me­dia chan­nels, will fea­ture men as well as women and focus on the im­por­tance of a job work­ing with the youngest chil­dren, a role which was once dis­missed as “play­ing with the paint pots” and con­sid­ered low sta­tus.

Jackie Brock, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Chil­dren in Scot­land, said the pro­por­tion of men in the early learn­ing and child­care had sub­stan­tially in­creased in re­cent years, due to tar­geted re­cruit­ment cam­paigns and free or sub­sidised routes to train­ing and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“How­ever, the work­force re­mains fe­male-dom­i­nated and there is still a lot of work to be done,” she added. Just three per cent of work­ers are men.

She claimed that men are re­luc­tant to go into the sec­tor in part be­cause of the poor pay – UK Gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics sug­gest that 80 per cent of prac­ti­tion­ers and 50 per cent of su­per­vi­sors are paid be­low the liv­ing wage.

Brock added. “We don’t want men to feel ex­cluded be­cause of a com­pletely out­dated no­tion that this is not men’s work. What more im­por­tant work is there than help­ing chil­dren learn, de­velop, ful­fil their po­ten­tial and have se­cure and happy lives?”

Nick Reynolds, a se­nior child­care of­fi­cer at Ed­in­burgh’s Gilmer­ton Child and Fam­ily Cen­tre, who has worked in child­care for 22 years, took up his first early years post after he was let go from his job off­shore.

“Then I was one of the only men work­ing in child­care,” he said. “It’s im­proved but we are still mas­sively out­num­bered.” Money, he said, was a bar­rier. “I went from earn­ing £400 a week off­shore to £75 a week in a nurs­ery. I fig­ured it was a job I loved so it was worth it. It’s got bet­ter over the years and there’s also more op­por­tu­nity for ca­reer pro­gres­sion.

“The un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of nurs­ery ed­u­ca­tion has also im­proved. Be­fore it was seen as just kids play­ing be­fore they started school. Now we are re­al­is­ing that high-qual­ity early years ed­u­ca­tion leads to bet­ter out­comes and the ben­e­fits are be­ing recog­nised.”

The Gilmer­ton cen­tre has four male mem­bers of staff in its 26-strong child­care team, and it con­sid­ers it im­por­tant for chil­dren, many of whom come from sin­gle par­ent fam­i­lies, to see car­ing male role mod­els. “It’s im­por­tant that we pro­mote that equal­ity,” added Reynolds. “Some of the boys might want to do this job when they are older. It is very re­ward­ing.”

His col­league James Sad­dler agreed. Ten years ago he ben­e­fited from a free train­ing scheme which has put over 1,800 men through child­care qual­i­fi­ca­tions since its in­cep­tion in 2001. “When I was grow­ing up it never seemed like an op­tion,” he said. “I worked for a con­crete com­pany but I was so bored. Now I’m never go­ing to make tons of money but it’s fun and ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent.”

Min­is­ter for Child­care and Early Years Mark McDon­ald con­firmed that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will be aim­ing to re­cruit more men as part of the re­cruit­ment drive.

He said: “By re­cruit­ing more men into the child­care pro­fes­sion, chil­dren will have more male role mod­els to look up to in their early years.”

Ellen Broomé, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Fam­ily and Child­care Trust, called on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the is­sue of low pay to ben­e­fit all em­ploy­ers. She added: “Child­care pro­fes­sion­als do one of the most valu­able jobs out there – they care for and ed­u­cate our fu­ture – but this over­whelm­ingly fe­male work­force is chron­i­cally un­der­paid and un­der­val­ued.”

James Sad­dler, a child­care of­fi­cer at the Gilmer­ton Child and Fam­ily Cen­tre, changed ca­reers to work in early years Pho­to­graph: Michael Boyd

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