Last week men featured quite highly on the agenda. Along with Jai Patel and Paul Spinks, co-chairs of the London Network of Men in Childcare, I attended the APPG on Fatherhood, chaired by David Lammy MP and serviced by Working with Men. I was delighted to meet some old friends there including colleagues from Men in Childcare Ireland.
It was a week when fathers had hit the press because of a report by Centre for Social Justice which said the poorest areas of the UK were becoming male deserts and there were too few visible male role models for children. The absence of fathers was linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage and that the responses of politicians had been feeble! David Lammy had followed this up with a personal piece in the Observer about growing up without a Dad concluding that it was unacceptable that by the age of 16, nearly three million children no longer live with their Dads.
At the meeting two more reports were presented. One from Barnardos called, ‘Are we nearly there yet Dad?’ and a Young Fathers Study from Leeds University. The general agreement was for better involvement from maternity services, more effective and consistent use of Children’s centres, more men in schools, better signposting and for local authorities to take a lead on supporting and engaging young fathers. The ensuing discussion involved some young Dads who were in the audience. Their points were consistent and depressingly familiar; ‘Help us with housing, childcare and employment.’
In the midst of all this, NetMums produced a survey which criticised the media for stereotyping Dads as dim-witted and gormless. David Mitchell did a fabulous rebalancing piece in the Observer which highlighted the intrinsic role of Dads when he said, ‘Men and fathers are so favoured in our society, the world is so weighted so much to their advantage that comedy writers can safely make them the perpetual butt of their jokes.’ He goes on, ‘If a time comes when women are as humorously depicted as their male equivalents then the distorting mirror of fairground comedy might at last be reflecting a just world.’
The second formally constituted meeting of the London Network of Men in Childcare (LEYF Men in Childcare report) took place last week also. The network is always open to new members so do spread the word. The purpose is really to raise the profile of men in childcare and conduct male-led research to create ‘gender pedagogy’. Members are expected to become well-versed in the key reasons as to why we need more men in childcare and to be willing and able to share that rationale with colleagues, parents, the media and whoever asks. We are developing a simple website to load information such as case studies, relevant reports, access and links to other relevant websites. We will have a twitter account and the hash tag is #meninchildcareldn.
We really need women behind the network as we all have to help spread the information and change attitudes. I am hoping media networks such as Laura Henry’s EYTalking might cover the topic to better engage the sector. Our next meeting is on 17th July – to add your name to the list just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday 27th June, Capita has shown great foresight and funded the first half day conference briefing entirely about Men in Childcare. Colleagues there recognise my frustration at the continued “invisibility” of male early childhood workers despite the findings from continual reports that children need to see as many positive role models as possible. Please come and add your support.
Despite all the political posturing we could not get anyone from the DfE to attend despite the continual Government targets. I did invite David Lammy but it was very short notice so I appreciate this is tricky but I hope he might give me something to read out as a supportive message.
The challenge (along with all the others) remain and needs you to help.