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  • Writer's picturenickthesquire

As I was walking to St Ives.........

Prior to this adventure my only knowledge of St Ives was limited to that little rhyme most famously told by Jeremy Irons. While I did not meet a polyamorous man with many cats and sacks, I did receive the warmest welcome someone can. Still shattered from my six hour drive I was taken out to dinner by my hosts and introduced to some of their leadership team. Immediately, I was entranced by my surroundings. The deep blue sea in front and rolling green hills behind me.

The owners of the setting, Jan, and Sue had two other settings under their belt, with at least 40 years’ experience within social care and early years education. The main take away from this excursion was the nuggets of wisdom they dropped that only comes from decades of experience running outstanding nursery settings. The alterations they had made to their day-to-day practice that enhanced the overall experience for educators and children.

Jan & Sue's recounting of their experiences in expanding their business from one setting in Birmingham, to a second in St Ives and a third in St Erth has changed my perspective in relation to expanding in the early years sector. Within the early years, we like to pretend that we are in business purely for the benefit of the children and families we support; however, at the end of the day we are a business and as such need to adopt business practices to keep the doors open.

I met Joe, who strangely enough has had a remarkably similar experience in early years to myself. Joe, also a male educator in a female dominated profession, has attended university, gained an early teaching degree and now jointly manages the St Erth setting. While my time with him directly was limited, it was amazing to hear his about his own experiences within the early year’s profession.

The Department of Education’s Early Years Workforce Strategy (2017) highlighted a lack of diversity within the early year’s profession. Diversity of the workforce was identified as one of the five focus areas of the strategy, with the DfE (2017, p24) stating –

‘We want children in Early Years provision to have both male and female role models to guide them in their Early Years, and we want more men to choose to work in the Early Years sector’

But how do we go about shifting the entire perception of not just the workforce, but society as a whole? With more men becoming open about their own struggles, physical or mental, we are seeing society begin to become more accepting of men in positions where they care for others, early years education being just one of many examples. The barriers remain, just not as high as they once did.

The lack of opportunity for ambitious educators, little pay for many hours and the perceptions of society all turn away educators, men, and women, who would otherwise thrive in the early years. For decades, we have highlighted to those in power, the benefits and importance of effective quality early years care. In return we have received breadcrumbs, a rise in funding here, an acknowledgement of importance there, with no comprehensive change to government approaches to the early years.

We cannot begin to address the societal perceptions of early years, till we are treated as equal partners in a child’s education journey by government.


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