In September/October 2020 the Fatherhood Institute organized 2 training sessions to support managers/providers/EY consultants in the recruitment and retention of men in early years education. The sessions were based on the findings of the ESRC funded GenderEYE study. Following the training, the GenderEYE team contacted some of the participants in order to find out what difference the training had made to their work in gender diversifying the early years workforce. Below are some of the points raised by participants that took part in the follow up:
Promoting the agenda of men in EYs
The training has helped keep the ‘men in EYs’ agenda alive and/or has reignited interest in this area. As a result of the training (and subsequently the follow-up) participants felt more motivated to renew contacts with key figures/networks and to continue promoting the men in EYs agenda. Some participants have also successfully encouraged providers/practitioners to sign up to the MITEY charter.
Toolkit as a point of contact
The Online Toolkit acts as a point of reference for encouraging settings to gender diversify their workforce. Participants (specifically EY consultants) were able to refer to the toolkit when settings/providers were thinking about recruitment or if they had specific concerns about the recruitment of men. The tool for analysing language was also used by settings when writing recruitment adverts. Some participants also took part in unconscious bias training, drawing on the toolkit for support.
Participants commented that some men working in early years came into the sector through indirect routes (e.g accountancy/engineering). Following recommendations in the toolkit, some participants have encouraged settings to focus on fathers, inviting them to take part in specific nursery activities such as working in the polytunnel or gardening. Participants have encouraged settings to widen their net when recruiting and to provide opportunities for fathers to become more involved in early years work.
Areas to consider
Although the participants felt very motivated following on from the training, the pandemic has brought about many new challenges for providers and for those working in early years or directly with settings. Attendance at online training sessions has varied considerably. Participants also found that although settings are becoming on the whole more confident about gender diversifying the workforce, they are ‘nervous’ around issues of discrimination, for example if parents request that male practitioners do not undertake intimate care. Setting are anxious about managing both parents’ concerns and complying with the law/getting into a legal minefield. This situation is preventing settings from considering male practitioners. Although the toolkit was able to provide some support in this area, it was felt that clearer messaging and guidance around these issues needed to start from the top and filter through different levels. There is also a strong sense among some settings that male practitioners will move on/out quickly and as a result, this remains a barrier to recruiting men. On a different note, it was mentioned that some settings in the south of England were organised following specific religious and cultural traditions which meant that children were cared for by men and women separately at certain times of the day and for specific activities. The toolkit was considered to be less effective in these settings although it was recognised that practitioners’ roles were gendered here.