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School leaders call for more male role models in early years

School leaders gathered in Liverpool this weekend for the Annual Conference of school leaders' union NAHT will be voting on Friday 4 May to support a motion calling for more male teachers in Early Years education. Currently men only make up 3% of the Early Years workforce.

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said: “It’s important for all children to experience positive male role models, and to understand that men can be interested in education, science or reading, just as much as in football. A diverse Early Years workforce can help children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, to visualise their futures and fulfil their educational potential.

“The lack of male teachers in early years is partly due to the perceived lack of status and importance this phase of education can have, and the subsequent lower pay early years roles can attract. This fails to recognise that Early Years education is one of the most vital moments in a child’s education, and the point at which attainment and life chances can be set.

“It is critical that Early Years specialist teachers and middle and senior leaders are valued and recognised by governing boards and senior leaders. We call on the DfE to recognise the importance of Early Years’ representation on school senior leadership teams and governing boards, as well as bringing a stronger focus on Early Years pedagogy to initial teacher training in order to protect, strengthen and improve the quality of Early Years provision in schools.”

Sally Bates, head teacher of Wadsworth Fields Primary School in Nottingham and member of NAHT’s Early Years sector council, said: “It’s clear that our Early Years sector council has great influence and I’m delighted to report that the DfE has made steps to address the important issue of lack of men working in Early Years. Our sector council has been invited to join the DFE “task and finish” group which has been recently established.

“This is such an important initiative as the need to attract more men into this critically important phase of education cannot be ignored. Young children need male role models, boys need to see education settings as reflecting their interests.

“The problem of society being suspicious of men working in this sector means that recruitment is low and this perception needs to be loudly challenged at every level.”

Adam Robbins, deputy head teacher of Roding Primary School in London, said: “I’ve done a lot of work on raising boys’ attainment in the Early Years and providing male role models that promote other things aside from football etc, which is crucial.

“For example, my school has a male in-house story teller, artist and musician. This gives all children in the early years, but particularly boys, more diverse examples of all the things men and boys can be interested in.”

Patrick Foley, head teacher of Southborough Primary School in Kent said: “It is essential for young children to have a positive male role model in their lives. The adults in Early Years settings, teachers, teaching assistants, nursery nurses and so on, play a very important role in the lives of young children. The importance of men in these roles cannot be overstated. Children need to talk and play and interact with men doing these jobs. This helps to develop children's language skills and their understanding of the world around them, amongst many other things.

“Working in an Early Years setting is a rewarding profession and can be enormously enjoyable. Men should be encouraged to join these professions and the barriers to men making these choices should be investigated and removed. More men in these key roles would improve outcomes for children in their early years, which would have tremendous benefit for all children."

The motion to be voted on at NAHT’s Annual Conference reads:

Conference calls on the DfE to acknowledge the low numbers of men employed in the Early Years. We believe that this can restrict opportunities for all children to experience positive male role models and can prevent some children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, from fulfilling their educational potential.

We need to encourage a more diverse sector and call on the DfE to work with the sector to identify ways to encourage more men into the Early Years.

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

Email : press.office@naht.org.uk