An initiative by NZ’s early childhood network ChildForum to encourage more men into early childhood teaching is paying dividends with the first recipients of the special funding already enrolled in training courses.
ChildForum started the invitation Award scheme last year as a way of making men know they are welcome in a profession that is female dominated.
The Award supports male teachers by asking training providers and early childhood education providers to contribute a $400 grant for any man looking to train in early childhood teaching.
The scheme has already sparked plenty of interest since it was launched.
Adam Buckingham president of ECMenz, a group that supports men working in ECE, says the idea is a "great step to move towards gender diversity in early childhood education".
Training provider UNITEC got on board with the scheme and some of the first grant recipients are now studying ECE courses there. UNITEC lecturer Alex Williams, who teaches part of the institution's Bachelor of Education ECE programme, says there is a great need for more male early childhood teachers.
"I personally believe gender equity is a significant social issue that remains, on many levels unresolved," he says.
"I find it shocking to consider that in such a socially important area as early childhood education that the issue of male under representation in the teaching workforce continues to be largely unaddressed and cannot help but wonder why this clearly significant issue appears to be ignored."
UNITEC works in a number of ways to support the increase of men in the ECE sector, he says, and the ChildForum invitation grant scheme was another way in which it could get involved. The grant was a "practical and immediate way of supporting men wishing to train in ECE".
The scheme is also being supported by The Ole Schoolhouse early childhood education centre in Rotorua, which has supplied funding for two grants and offered the chance for students to do their practicum part of training at the centre.
Co-owner Eric Hollis says he and his wife are keen to see more men working in ECE and feel it is important for children to experience both male and female care.
“We feel that gender balance is critical, if challenging to achieve,” he says.
“Children need to see that men can be capable carers and that they can work in a team alongside female colleagues to achieve positive outcomes for all children.”
Eric says it is important for both girls and boys to see gender equality in the workplace.
“It is important for our boys to see that caring is men’s work, too,” he says.
“They need to see male role-models who are respectful and loving. Our girls need to see that stereotypical gender roles are social constructions and that they need not restrict who we are or who we become. After all, why be a princess when you can be president?”
Eric says he had mainly positive responses from parents when it was announced that a male teaching student would be attending the centre. The only concern raised was around nappy changing, but this was addressed in the centre’s policy around student teachers and changing which applied to any students working in the centre.
ChildForum is continuing with the scheme this year and already several men have applied but more sponsors are needed to encourage men further to get involved in ECE.
Training providers, early childhood education services, or anyone else who would like to get involved with the grant scheme by offering one or more $400 grants can contact ChildForum by going to its website: www.childforum.com
Men, interested in training for a career in ECE can apply for a grant by contacting ChildForum. Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants as sponsors come forward. The award also includes a gift subscription of a personal membership to ChildForum’s online library of teaching information, resources and research.