Gender diversification of the early years education workforce: Recruiting, supporting and retaining male practitioners

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Educational Research

Abstract

This research aims to improve our understanding of the obstacles that stand in the way of more men taking up employment in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce; to learn about possible solutions; and to harness this evidence-based knowledge in ways that can help the UK diversify the gender of its workforce in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

Currently only around 2% of the UK's ECE workforce are male; a figure that has remained stubbornly resistant to change for several decades. We will work with hubs of ECE professionals located in four English localities, who are interested and active in advocating for an increase of men in ECE and engaged in supportive MITEY (Men in the Early Years) regional networks and national conferences. We will work with a team of academics and practitioners from Norway who have been engaged, through Norway's gender equality action plan, in regional and national recruitment strategies to achieve a government target of 20% more men in kindergartens.
Four hub leaders will attend a knowledge exchange event in Norway and cascade their learning to ECE colleagues, engaging eight different settings (pre-schools and primary school Reception classes) who will then form a sample of case studies, two in each hub. The case study methodology will follow the model utilised by Warin in a pilot study, funded by Childbase Partnership, that explored impacts of a mixed-gender workforce in a nursery with five male practitioners. We will also administer a survey to the wider sector, seeking data on male recruitment and retention, and information about previous, ongoing and future approaches to increasing numbers. In addition we will conduct supporting interviews with key training providers, careers stakeholders and key ECE strategists. Findings will be translated into recommendations and training pathways for ECE providers and managers.

We will deliver a training event for a group of these stakeholders, who will then act as MITEY 'champions' and cascade their knowledge further to others in the ECE sector. We will also produce a training toolkit for free distribution to the sector, drawing on the best available evidence. We will hold a conference at the end of the project, to pull together and communicate all our learning.

A key aim is to harness our findings to develop a workable and explicit theory that rationalises the value of including men within the ECE workforce and can be taken up by ECE professionals and others to advocate for an increase in numbers of men. The study will apply an innovative theory drawn from Warin's longstanding research in gender and education which focuses on the concept of gender flexible pedagogy. The concept addresses possibilities and opportunities for the transformation of traditional gender norms and requires gender sensitive practitioners who are willing and able to traverse traditional gender boundaries, and encourage children to do the same. By enabling ECE providers to show young children (through actions rather than words) that caregiving is an activity for men as well as women, we will enhance efforts to help young children themselves to challenge gender stereotypes so that they may grow up to make less constrained choices about their own careers and gender roles within families.

This research is the first ever attempt in the UK to collate, collect and use research evidence in a systematic way, to support gender diversification of the ECE workforce. It will, for the first time, create a strong evidence base and substantial learning experiences to support ECE providers motivated to create a more gender-diverse workforce, along with resources to help them develop the most effective strategies and communicate key messages to potential recruits, ECE providers, parents, training providers, and careers services.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?

Wider society. The project will create an evidence base and high quality resources to support ECE professionals, training bodies and careers advice services to plan, act and self-evaluate in ways that better support gender equality. By working towards a more gender-diverse, gender-sensitive ECE workforce, we will support greater gender awareness in children, contributing towards reduced gender discrimination in the future. Communication of findings could catalyze change in related caring professions, addressing current recruitment crises.

Children in ECE (including, but not limited to, those in case study settings). They will benefit from an increase in the pool of potential applicants to the ECE workforce; a more gender sensitive workforce, employing a gender-flexible approach, also has the potential to develop children's own gender awareness, enhancing their childhoods and leading to generational gender transformation and equality. Mothers and fathers may engage with the developing gender-sensitive practices of ECE staff, enhancing opportunities to challenge gender stereotypes and model caring masculinities.

ECE professionals. Managers will be enabled to engage with examples of replicable good practice in recruitment, support and retention of male staff; gain insight into recruitment barriers and drop-out of males; create support strategies; and engage with theory in a national discussion on the value of mixed gender workforces. Some will become MITEY Champions and cascade learning to others. Practitioners, including immediate participant beneficiaries in the four hubs and their wider networks, will benefit from collaboration with academic partners to establish a strong theoretical rationale for recruiting, retaining and supporting male colleagues.

ECE training providers. Programme directors of ITT and CPD in ECE, relevant degrees and CACHE level 3, will be enabled to adopt a theoretical framework and research evidence to support recruitment activities, and professional ECE training in gender sensitization. Students will be able to use findings to inform professional training, reflection and practice.

Providers of careers advice services. They will be able to: access recruitment opportunities and taster sessions for a range of job-seeking males; and acquire an evidence base with which to better inform jobseekers and dispel common myths.

Male recruits/potential recruits. They may discover aptitude and job satisfaction in a non-traditional career: young men (e.g. work experience students, school leavers and apprentices); older men and unemployed or career-change men.

How will they benefit?

A strategic communications plan has been built into the project, to maximise impact with relevant beneficiaries. An initial KE event in Norway pulls together the practitioner networks of Co-I Emilsen with pivotal UK MITEY advocates, and launches two parallel approaches for managing the project and creating impact pathways: a steering group and a project website. The former, comprising project leaders and strategically chosen advocates from national and international networks, will inform outputs and create a communication channel for rapid dissemination to wider audiences; the latter will host key project resources. The project will be promoted to the ECE sector and more widely via press coverage, blogs and social media. A closed Facebook group will support networking between hubs and other key participants. Warin and Marlow's drama expertise will transform selected findings into an engaging 'performed ethnography' play-script, following a model devised by Davies and Robinson (2016), to be performed at the EOP and MITEY 2020 conferences. We will also deliver two training resources, led by Co-I Davies: a session aimed at ECE providers who will become MITEY Champions, and a training toolkit incorporating a play-script and a library of commissioned photographs

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Photograph collection of Men in Nursery Setting 
Description A collection of photographs of men in a nursery setting (Lancaster University Nursery) has been commission and produced as part of this project. Before now, photographs of this king have been limited. The photos will be used on the GenderEYE website and at events and in training material throughout the course of this project. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Not at present. It is currently too soon to tell. 
 
Title GenderEYE Contacts 
Description This is an overall database of contacts linked with Early Years Education in the UK. Further contacts liked to the project from Europe have also been added (e.g. project partners and Steering Group members). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This database, compiled through a variety of sources (e.g. Hub Seminars, website and social media publicity, emails directly to the project) provides a multipurpose list of contacts which will form the basis of much of the research carried out over the course of the GenderEYE project. 
 
Title Hub Seminar Interviews 
Description I DON'T FEEL THAT I AM THE BEST PERSON TO FILL THIS BIT IN - BUT I THINK THE DATABASE OF INFO THAT JOANN WILL COLLECT IS ESSENTIAL IN HERE. possibly just the ones already collected for now,. I've put no below but wont this be saved? Is it anonymous but will be available? Not currently available right now. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact PLEASE FILL 
 
Description Fatherhood Institute 
Organisation Fatherhood Institute
PI Contribution Co-Investigator Dr Jeremy Davies is Head of Communications at the Fatherhood Institute. A journalist/ researcher and passionate advocate for involved fatherhood, he has more than a decade's experience helping family services reach out to, and work more effectively with, fathers. His role at the Institute includes contributing to research projects, writing guides, reports and articles for professional and lay audiences. running press campaigns, managing websites and social media, training practitioners and presenting at conferences. Jeremy's PhD (University of Manchester) explored levels of paternal involvement among gay fathers. He founded the #MITEY (Men In The Early Years) campaign and is deputy chair of the Department for Education's Gender Diversity Task and Finish Group.
Collaborator Contribution I AM NOT SURE IF THESE PARTNERSHIPS ALREADY LISTED AS PART OF THE PROJECT SHOULD BE ADDED SO I WILL STOP HERE. IF SO - QUEEN MAUD'S NEED MENTIONING TOO. HOWEVER - THIS SEEMS LIKE IT IS ALREADY DOCUMENTED AND THEREFORE PROBABLY NOT NECESSARY
Impact ADD
Start Year 2018
 
Description GenderEYE Closed Facebook Group Establishment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our closed facebook group allows practitioners and interested stakeholders to converse in GenderEYE related dialoge in a closed, safe space. There are 27 practitioners currently signed up.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.facebook.com/groups/284023142229895/
 
Description GenderEYE Twitter account establishment 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our twitter account allows current project news to be shared internationally and for both practitioners and the general public to engage with our current activities; with 191 followers so far
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://twitter.com/GenderEYE
 
Description GenderEYE website production 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A standalone project website has been produced with the capacity to feature blogs and project outputs which will allow our project to be viewed internationally; as it already has done in over 10 countries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.genderEYE.org
 
Description Hub meeting Bradford 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our Bradford Hub meeting allowed the findings from the Norway Knowledge Exchange to be disseminated to local practitioners and stakeholders, sparking debate in group conversations afterwards which were recorded.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hub meeting Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Our Bristol Hub meeting allowed the findings from the Norway Knowledge Exchange to be disseminated to local practitioners and stakeholders, sparking debate in group conversations afterwards which were recorded.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hub meeting London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our London Hub meeting allowed the findings from the Norway Knowledge Exchange to be disseminated to local practitioners and stakeholders, sparking debate in group conversations afterwards which were recorded.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Hub meeting Southampton 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Our Southampton Hub meeting allowed the findings from the Norway Knowledge Exchange to be disseminated to local practitioners and stakeholders, sparking debate in group conversations afterwards which were recorded.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Norway Knowledge Exchange 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The knowledge exchange at the lauch of the project, created excellent dialogue between practitioners in Norway and the UK; with interestig comparisons and contrasts being noted. The event sparked a two media posts in Norway and a blog post from one of the attendees from the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Steering Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The establishment of the Steering Group has created a small network of UK and international academics specifically talking on this subject and supporting the Closed-Facebook group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018