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Absence of men from childcare a national disgrace

Early Childhood Council

Absence of men from childcare 'a national disgrace'

New Zealand¹s largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres has called for a partnership between Government and childcare organizations to encourage more men into childcare.

The call follows yesterday's (24 September) Sunday Programme (on ONE) which revealed men were more than two per cent of those working in early childhood care (teacher-staffed, government-funded early childhood services) in 1992, but less than one per cent today ­ and falling.

The Early Childhood Council said the absence of men from early childhood teaching was Œa national disgrace¹.

Chief Executive Sue Thorne said New Zealand compared very badly¹ to other developed countries and the need for action was urgent.

ŒWith few men in our primary schools and fewer in childcare centres we have created a society in which we have quarantined our children from our men.

This is a project of destructive social change with very negative consequences for children.¹

She said the paedophile hysteria of the 1990s had caused good men to vacate roles caring for children.

Many men don¹t feel welcome in childcare, she said.

ŒThey feel they will be treated as suspect until proven innocent. And we know, as a matter of record, that some parents will not enroll children in a centre if men are present.

"We have created a culture in which it can be dangerous to reputation and future for a childcare male to cuddle a distressed child, to change a nappy or express affection. This anti-male bias, however, does not change the fact that children need to experience men as nurturing."

The presence of men in childcare was important for the many children being brought up with absent fathers, she said. And it was especially important if such children came from at-risk environments in which they had experienced men as unreliable or abusive.

"The potential benefits of such children spending time with strong, gentle men were incalculable," Mrs Thorne said.

She said there was great irony in the fact that Œthe current situation is perpetuated by those who would otherwise proclaim most loudly an opposition to sexism¹.

Why is it that the same people who speak with passion about the absence of women from the boardroom are silent about the absence of men from the classroom?

Why is it that there would be an outcry were women excluded from the promotion of careers in the army or law or medicine, but there is silence when men are excluded in advertising for childcare?¹

Mrs Thorne called for a partnership between the Government, the teacher unions, the education institutions and child care associations to get more men onto the childcare frontline.

ŒThere was a time, only a few years ago, when few doctors, lawyers or journalists were women, but we changed that she said.

They've achieved substantial increases in male participation in childcare overseas and I see no reason why the same could not be achieved in New Zealand.¹

Men were needed to help resolve severe labour shortages in the sector, Mrs Thorne said.

The system needs them. The children need them. It's time things changed.

The Early Childhood Council, headed by Mrs Thorne, has 940 member centres (both community-owned and commercially-owned) which employ more than 6000 staff and care for more than 50,000 children.


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