Men in the Nursery - Challenging Stereotypes
“It would benefit children of both sexes if there were more male nursery workers” – the view of one of this rare phenomenon, a male nursery manager.
G raeme West got his first taste for working with children when he decided to try a week’s work experience in a primary school at the age of 15.
“What started as an interest in teaching soon blossomed into a fascination with child development,” says Graeme. After his A Levels, he enrolled on the CACHE Diploma in Early Years at Northbrook College.
Although conscious that he was the only boy in the class, Graeme says, “I knew what I wanted to do, so I didn’t mind. Society talks about people being ‘maternal’ but not ‘paternal’. People are just stuck in their ways. More men are coming through now and hopefully it will balance out as times change”.
Northbrook College is keen to concur. Childcare Lecturer, Sue Pratt, says, “We want to encourage more young men to consider this as a professional career pathway because the college recognises the value that a male role model can offer to an Early Years setting”.
Graeme’s career began with his college work placement at Cbabiesafe nursery in Worthing and he was quickly promoted to Nursery Manager.
“It’s not seen as ‘normal’ for a man to work in a nursery”, says Graeme. “People are suspicious of a man’s motives, whereas a woman would not be questioned”.
Worried parents have recently been reassured as Cbabiesafe has become the first nursery in the country to use webcams, allowing parents to log on to a secure website to check that their children are safe and well.
At the age of 24, Graeme has just been promoted to Area Manager, based mainly at Cbabiesafe’s head office in Hove, where he and his team are currently reviewing the outcomes from a successful OFSTED inspection.
“The best thing about this job is seeing the children’s progress throughout their time with us,” says Graeme. His evident enjoyment of his work was once tested when he thought he’d try a different career and left the nursery to run a bar. His venture only lasted three months before it confirmed to him that childcare was his natural vocation and so was reinstated in his previous position
Like many Early Years professionals, Graeme is continuing his education while he works. Early Years staff are often trained on the job through schemes such as apprenticeships and work based NVQs which are successfully offered through Northbrook College. Graeme has completed training for ‘special educational needs’ and is currently studying for an NVQ 5 in management.
He also plans to embark on the Foundation Degree in Early Years, offered part time at Northbrook College. The degree course has been designed to be integral to working life in the Early Years setting thereby facilitating learning in the workplace.
Graeme hopes that the degree will help to confirm which direction he will take in the future – whether to concentrate on special needs work or to one day own his own nursery. But he has no doubts that his future will be in the Early Years sector.
“With many families having no adult male at home, male Early Years professionals can help provide a rounded education for young children. The current media stereotypes are the worst thing for the sector”.
Graeme has recently taken on a new male nursery worker to join the team at his Hove nursery and he stresses, “I would say to any young man considering training in Early Years, ‘Don’t let them scare you off. If you want to do it, go ahead!’.”