Yesterday I woke up late, nursing a heavy head; a combination of a rotten head cold, three glasses of red wine (that’s one too many for me!) and dancing into the early hours in celebration of us winning a Nursery World award on Saturday night at the Grand Connaught Hotel. Yes, the London Men in Childcare Network (#meninchildcareldn) scooped the Inclusion Award. Our photo on the podium said it all as we were 8 men and three women quite the reverse to all the other winning groups.
Every member of the London Men in Childcare Network (#meninchildcareldn) is a winner and the certificate will be scanned and issued so they can all display it at their various workplaces.
They are winners because they are brave enough to be public about what they do and challenge the usual ignorance that all men that work with children have inappropriate intentions. The second reason they are winners is because they are sharing ideas and initiating and leading research. They back each other and encourage and support those interested and new to the sector. In essence, they are prepared to try and do things differently so that children both boys and girls benefit. Our job is to help and understand and stop either patronising or excluding. (‘Oh we have Sonny working for us, he is so lovely and really good with IT and rough and tumble play’ to ‘Nah, we couldn’t accommodate a man, not enough loos’).
The interesting thing for me as Founder of the Network and now Advocate and Champion, (we have two capable Chairs, Paul Spinks @PaulSpinks3 and Jai Patel @ukindian126 ) is the power of a Network. The Early Years sector seems particularly responsive to the network approach. Liz Roberts, Editor of Nursery World gave a very lively speech summing up all the changes and challenges we continue to face as a sector. Then she referenced how we managed to fend off the proposed ratio changes through our social media campaign and the on going #OfstedBigConversation. The responding vibe in the room was positive. Amid the rustles of the evening gowns and the glittery reflections, the tweets were flying furiously from “the Cloud” and no one thought a #hashtag was something attached to their frock.
So the upshot is that social media has opened up networking with a modern twist. It’s supporting the democratic process by providing a forum for provocation and debate. I suspect it’s the bane of many a politician’s life. That’s good as I have a plan for another network up my sleeve and the sleeves of a few other colleagues which we hope will create more international discussions.
The Awards evening concluded by giving Professor Cathy Nutbrown the Lifetime Award. She was clearly moved by the warmth of the sector and her acceptance speech was beautifully illustrative of what we and our networks are trying to do. She told the story of a child on a beach full of stranded starfish. The child started picking them up and putting them into the sea. Her father said there is no point it won’t make any difference. She picked up a starfish and sent it out to sea and said “It’s made a difference to him”. That’s the spirit! I thought, just one connection can make that difference to someone. Let’s do it. Tweet, join LinkedIn, comment on blogs and take a stand. If we stop one mad policy, or hold off some crazy manifesto pledge or amend a well-meaning initiative then it would be, as L’Oreal would say, “worth it.”