UniSA calls for more to be done to boost men in ECEC
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > UniSA calls for national childhood workforce strategy to encourage more men to ECEC

UniSA calls for national childhood workforce strategy to encourage more men to ECEC

by Freya Lucas

January 30, 2024

Education experts from the University of South Australia (UniSA) are calling for a national childhood workforce strategy to encourage more men into the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. 


The call is part of the recently released Dad’s Alliance Action Plan for the Early Years, which aims to support fathers to take a more active role in their children’s lives.


Fewer than three per cent of the ECEC sector workforce is male, and the need for gender diversity is clear, UniSA’s Dr Martyn Mills-Bayne has said. 


“The first five years of a child’s life are critical to healthy development, and it’s vital that children receive the best quality of care during these early years,” Dr Mills-Bayne says.


“A key part of this is ensuring that children are cared for by healthy and positive role models – which includes both men and women.”


Men are vastly underrepresented in ECEC, he said, and this can be detrimental to young children. Having access to positive interactions between men and women supports young children’s healthy development in all areas.


“Centre-based care is highly regulated to ensure quality education and care is provided for all children who attend,” he continued.


“What is missing however, is the access to a gender diverse early childhood workforce where young children have opportunities to experience rich relationships with male educators, and the day-to-day interactions between men, women, and non-binary educators that they might otherwise miss out on.”


“The early years are critical to children’s healthy growth in all areas of development, and a diverse gender profile in the early years’ workforce adds to the rich potential for children to see themselves reflected in the adults who educate and care for them in structured early learning.”


Dr Mills-Bayne says more needs to be done to encourage men into ECEC.


“Young children can benefit enormously from male teachers and carers in early childhood settings.” Dr Mills-Bayne says.


“Not only can men often provide increased opportunities for children to engage in ‘rough-and-tumble’ play, or to get involved in messy play and take risks, but they also represent much-needed healthy and caring role models.”


“When young children learn from and are cared for by both men and women, we’re showing that all genders matter, so that ‘caring’ and ‘being kind’ are valued across genders. And this important learning is something they’ll take with them across their lives.”


“Breaking long-established gender stereotypes is vital and it needs to be more strongly supported in early childcare and education.”


“We are calling on state and national governments to join the Dad’s Action Plan for the Early Years to help supercharge male involvement in young children’s lives with a radical shift in the recruitment and retention of male early childhood educators.


“If we can improve the experiences of our youngest citizens so that they’re cared for by men and women, the flow on effects could be exponential – it’s time to step up.”

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