The London Network of Men in Childcare is a voluntary network of over seventy members from across London of men who work in the childcare industry. They recently won the Nursery World Diversity and Inclusion Award and have released a new video: Men In Childcare.
One of the group’s aims is to encourage more men into a female-dominated profession and also to give men a place talk about their roles and responsibilities in caring for young children. One of its members, Conor Bathgate, who works as Deputy Nursery Manager at London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) recommended this report on men working in childcare.
Just this month, The Co-operative Childcare, a leading nursery chain has pledged to have least two male practitioners in every Co-operative Childcare nursery by this October. Men, it seems, are working and being actively encouraged to work in nurseries.
But what about men who want to childmind and look after small children in their own homes?
Younger children, especially young boys, can really benefit from having a male childminder. My friend Claire sends her boys to a male childminder. She says, “he is a great influence on them, I think my boys need a man because he calms them down. He’s a great role model in their lives.”
But as a man in childminding there can also be more prejudice to overcome. Jon*, from Reading, told me that he had almost quit childminding after he had looked after an eight year old who had run out of the house into the street. He had physically restrained her for her own safety and then afterwards had been terrified that he would be accused of handling her wrong in some way. “The problem with being a man doing childminding is that there would only have to be the smallest suspicion that I had behaved inappropriately, and I would lose all my business. If I didn’t childmind with my wife, I am not sure I would get any business really. I think men are seen as the ones who are going to ‘interfere’ or behave ‘inappropriately’ and therefore always ‘suspect’.”
That sort of story is sad to hear, and makes me wonder how common Jon’s experiences are. And yet across the country, my freedom of information request from Ofsted has revealed that there are around 1500 male childminders, that’s about 2% of people who work in childminding. Many of these men work in husband-wife teams, but others choose to enter a female-dominated profession on their own and some like “Barry* from up north” do it for great reasons. I want to share his inspiring story with you here.
Why I work as a childminder – by “Barry from up North”
I feel strongly about “Safeguarding Children”. I saw my first ‘serious abused child’ in 1974 when I was in the ambulance service. A 999 call was received to collect a child (2 years) suffering from ‘scalding’.
On arrival, I was presented with a male infant with half of his body with the skin separating. The story was given that the child had climbed into a bath of boiling water and slipped as a result of his feet touching the water. Mum had been distracted by a phone call. Too many inconsistences rang alarm bells. A&E was notified to be on standby to receive an infant with over 50% burns. Further information was given but the story kept changing. On arrival at A&E I spoke to the SHO and advised “Place of Safety required immediately” together with my information and reasoning. Less than one hour later the infant was transferred to a specialist burns unit under police escort.
Cigarette burns and bruises to the areas of skin unaffected by the scald, and the scald covered only the left hand side of the child’s body. It had been ‘dipped’ in the boiling water by being held by the right wrist and right ankle. The child got ‘protection’ and lived. The parents went to prison.
However, I can still see that child’s injuries and hear the screams. And over 30 years later I know that was the incident that really made me think seriously about something I would never have considered before, going into childcare.
How it happened was I was asked to go to work for a friend who was a childminder as they knew I had a number of skills that they could use. However I never took the offer seriously. At the third time of asking (in the presence of my wife) the childminder said, ‘well you could both do this job as you both have a lot of the skills needed.’
Six months later we were registered as childminders and worked together until my wife resigned due to ill health. I continued to work with an assistant until the loss of five children to school forced me to make her redundant.
I have continued to work with the before and after school children, a number with ‘additional needs’ and appear to offer the necessary support that these children’s needs. I have recently taken on a child ‘directly because I am older and male’ and the parents are very happy as the child has settled quickly. I do have a reputation for being able to manage children with additional needs and therefore settle to helping meet those children’s needs.
My main advantage is that single parents who do not have a partner’s support or family support is not local do appreciate someone with ‘life skills’ who can look beyond the immediate difficulty. Ironically I have been requested to look after twins, why, cos I am able to do weekends. Nothing to do with gender, merely availability.
*Names changed for confidentiality
Kay Woods writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter. Sign up using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.