Education Observatory

Research in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

Research seminar challenges assumptions around men in childcare

The Children, Young people and Families Research and Scholarship group held this research seminar on Thursday 9th May 2019. The event focused on the research of Dr Helen Perkins and Tracey Edwards – ‘Men in Childcare: A balanced Approach’.

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The Children, Young people and Families Research and Scholarship group held this research seminar on Thursday 9th May 2019. The event focused on the research of Dr Helen Perkins and Tracey Edwards – ‘Men in Childcare: A balanced Approach’.

While the conversations about the benefits of a gender balanced workforce continue, very little attention has been paid to the views of children. At this early stage of their development, children have a unique opportunity to make up their own minds about what boys and girls can do or be. However, if a balanced approach is not achieved, social norms learned in families, communities and peer groups will influence and reduce their choices, aspirations and social achievements. This then perpetuates the stereotypical gendered roles, with boys potentially rejecting nurturing and caring careers and girls limiting their potential for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths; skills and knowledge which will no doubt be essential for the next phase of our quickly changing world.

In this seminar we share our research, conducted in partnership with the London Early Years Foundation teachers and children. Dr Helen Perkins and Tracey Edwards from the University of Wolverhampton who led the study explain,

“Children need to see our diverse society reflected in their nurseries. It is not just about gender but the opportunity for children to have choice. It is the characteristics and attributes of the teacher that provides a rich learning environment and allows all children to embrace positive non-stereotypical gendered behaviours.”

The research seminar had 11 attendees from 2 universities. Feedback from the event was very positive.

Feedback on useful/beneficial aspects of the day included:

  • Learning about the scope of the research
  • Challenging own values/beliefs and unconscious bias
  • Developing understanding on how LEYF support quality education

Key messages from the day included:

  • It’s not just about recruiting more men
  • Men in childcare do not need to be father substitutes or role models more than women in childcare need to be mother substitutes or role models. It’s about good quality practice.
  • That progress is being made in addressing gender stereotypes in the Early Years
  • It is about good practitioners and not gender
  • Importance of ‘reflexive’ practice
  • Raising awareness of unconscious gendered behaviours

For more information on this research please contact Dr Helen Perkins on H.Perkins@wlv.ac.uk and Tracey Edwards on Tracey.Edwards2@wlv.ac.uk.