Harmony Early Learning’s educational leader is a man on a mission to reshape ECEC
Craig d’Arcy, the Educational Leader at Harmony Early Learning in Lennox Head is a man on a mission, seeking to change the “alarming” statistic which shows that only 2.7 per cent of the total staff working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services identify as male.
Reflecting on his own experiences of studying ECEC “alongside hundreds of women”, Mr d’Arcy began to consider ways to recruit, retain and support men in the sector.
The most common challenge faced by the men he has spoken with over the years, in terms of choosing and continuing a role in the sector is the fear (imagined or otherwise) of having to deal with an allegation or suspicion of inappropriate behaviour, he said.
There are other challenges, Mr d’Arcy continued, such as the gender stereotyped perception that the profession is for women only, or that caring for young children is ‘women’s work’. These challenges, he continued, can leave men studying or working on their own in isolation from other men in turn having a lack of other role models to be mentored and supported by.
To overcome these challenges, he has created the national Males in Early Childhood Network Group, which is advocating for increased acceptance of men within childcare services.
The group strives to eliminate professional isolation through mentoring support to students by experienced male workers and providing advice for students looking to enter the field.
Making ECEC spaces more enticing to male educators and leaders
One simple way that services can make their spaces more enticing to male educators, Mr d’Arcy said, is to showcase images of men in caring roles throughout the centre to provide a sense of belonging.
“I have seen some services have success when they are able to articulate to their families and the team of educators about the benefits of having a male educator in the service. This can assist with providing clear expectations as well,” he added.
Ultimately, however, “this is not a male versus female concern or issue; it is part of being a human being to care for our next generations. If you want to have meaning and satisfaction in your working life, and want to give to others, then educating and caring for young children could be a great option,” Mr d’Arcy said.
“Rather than ‘hoping for’ more men to enter the profession, be clear with your advertising and show that you are actively recruiting men. They might need to be invited to begin with, but you will find that having a male (or men!) on your staff will add diversity to your team and ultimately lead to a more effective and responsive curriculum for children.”