The number of male teachers is gradually increasing in the UK. In fact, some nurseries and schools have engaged in gender-inclusion campaigns aimed at recruiting more men in teaching and working with children. However, this has not stopped parents from making assumptions about male teachers that are often untrue.
For example, it's common for fathers to worry that their son will become "too girly" if they spend time around men; meanwhile mothers may believe that men can't teach their daughter how to be strong and independent like other women do. This blog post discusses these stereotypes along with others faced by male teachers and practitioners within the childcare industry today.
Are Male Teachers stereotyped when it comes to Safeguarding?
For too long, society has had a preconceived notion that men should not work in childcare. Society's view of "male" and "female" professions is often seen as one-sided and narrow-minded. This perspective on gender roles needs to change if we want equal opportunity for all. Male teachers increasingly face societal challenges which are rooted in outdated stereotypes about what a man should be like. Moreover, sexism toward men working in childcare is also a common occurrence. The male nursery worker narrative often casts male carers in positions of danger, risk, or suspicion which again seems to be linked to male child sex offenders.
Is it time Male Teachers were no longer Taboo?
It sounds like an odd question, but male nursery workers are almost unheard of. Episodes like that of Jayden McCarthy, now aged 18 but 16 at the time of the offences, who assaulted seven girls and one boy at the family-run nursery in Devon highlight how male nursery workers are so rare that any male role model is likely to appear suspicious.
It is time to stop raising the profile of male teachers only when safeguarding incidents occur. Celebrating men in childcare and education on a regular basis helps tackling the taboo of male teachers and developing a culture of acceptance amongst staff and parents.
Sally Lynham, a nursery manager from a Gloucestershire nursery, says:
“We currently have a male student on placement at nursery and some of the stories he has told us from previous placements are awful. It’s about time male nursery nurses were treated the same as female ones, after all how many female perpetrators have there been, it’s always the male ones that hit the news. My son is a qualified level 3 nursery practitioner who left the business for a while as it was so stressful. Thankfully, he has decided to give it another go.”
Megan Symonds, a nursery manager from Bristol, adds:
“With the shocking news that a male apprentice has abused their position of trust, it's once again shining a negative spotlight on the role of male practitioners, particularly within the early years which is something that has taken years to change and I fear this will set us back again.
I've worked in the early years sector for nearly 20 years and for much of that time it's been a very female dominated sector, however over the last 10 years I've seen a real change for the better with more and more male practitioners bringing their valuable skills to the table.
With the rise of single parent families, to have a male role model at your setting can help children and in particular, boys, to have someone to look up to that they may have more in common with and feel more comfortable around.
At my current setting that I manage, our male practitioner is the most popular member of staff, he's creative and musical and everything you could want from an early years staff member. He goes from being iron man to singing “Twinkle Twinkle” and everything in between and I see absolutely no difference in their practice compared to a female.
I have only ever had one parent come to me with concerns over the fact that it is a male, and when I asked them to explain their concerns to me, we looked more closely at what we could do to put their mind at ease. I invited them into the setting to spend time and see our male practitioner in action and show them they have nothing to worry about. After only half an hour the parent came to me to apologise and thought he was fantastic and a huge asset. I think it was important not to just deny the parent their worries, but to include them and show them why they shouldn't be concerned. Actions speak louder than words! I explained our safeguarding procedures and checks before employment, as well as how we continually check staff using the DBS update service which all of our staff are on. Include the parents and they'll feel more included and comfortable.
We are told to teach the children that gender doesn't matter. That you can dress as a princess as a boy, or play dinosaurs as a girl, and that girls can be in the police and boys can work with children... how are we supposed to back this up if all they see are woman around them?”
Sharing positive stories about your Male Teachers
Male Childcare and Teaching Jobs is urging nursery managers and headteachers to share positive stories about their male practitioners and teachers with us. Our campaign aims to celebrate male figures in education and raise men’s positive profiles in nurseries and schools. Nursery assistants, teaching staff, parents - we want you all involved!
Share your story of a time when someone did something amazing for the children or had an impact on them that left a lasting impression. It could be anything from helping one child find her shoe during playtime to making crafts with another class during lunch break.
How can you help? Simply send over any pictures or videos of men in childcare settings along with some anecdotes about what they achieved here by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
You never know how much it will inspire others!