Spotlight on – Lee Watts
Men in Childcare
Lee Watts joined the childcare industry as soon as he finished school. For the past 15 years he’s had a number of different roles within the early years sector and is now the Manager of Manor Minors Out of School Clubs. We spoke to Lee about his experiences and how he sees the future for men in childcare.
“My God Son was born when I was 14 years old, and he changed my perspective on things. I realised then, that working with young people was what I wanted to do, so as soon as I left school I took a role in the childcare industry. Straight away I found that children reacted in different ways to having a male in the setting. Some, who had no male influence either found me daunting or were very curious. These children were drawn to me with a curiosity to find out what a ‘man’ was.
I think the importance of the role of the father in a child’s early development has come to the forefront of people’s attention recently. Society has also changed, where family dynamics have changed with both parents having to work and share childcare duties. It’s a very positive shift.
The next steps are to work on getting more men interested in early years education.
There are challenges and barriers to entering the industry as a male. Firstly, you’re always the only man on the course! Sometimes people assume that as a man I’m only here for fun and to encourage play, and that my knowledge of child development may not be up to scratch. It’s generally assumed that males are not capable of being as caring. There is a social stigma that males are better suited to discipline and outdoor activities but I’ve worked with male staff that are just as compassionate and nurturing as the rest of their teams.
I’ve had a number of different roles in the industry and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a difference in my abilities or working practice compared to my female counterparts. The difference is in people’s reactions to me rather than my thoughts or actions. As the manager of my setting, I’m just as comfortable mentoring staff, speaking with parents, or playing princesses! It’s all in a day’s work for me!
It’s always amazing to see peoples reaction, I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative reaction to being a male in the industry. So many people of all generations comment on how nice it is to have men working in my settings, on occasions we have had all male staff running and conducting sessions which is really fantastic in such a female heavy industry.
I absolutely love my role. Every day I can challenge my genders preconceived role, I’m caring, kind and compassionate and seeing children and families realising that is part of what makes my job so great.”
GenderEYE have created a survey (for managers and practitioners/staff) to help them gain a better understanding of the early years workforce in terms of age, qualifications, training, challenges and support. The survey for practitioners will cover the above areas and ask about roles undertaken. The survey for managers will have specific questions on development and recruitment strategies for attracting men to early years education.
The surveys are completely anonymous. The practitioner survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes. For the managers, there will be two options. Participants may take a speedy 1-minute survey or a longer 5-10 minute survey. The questionnaires will be available until September 30th 2019 and the results will be published at the end of 2020 in early years magazines such as Nursery World and Under 5s, or in academic journals.
Take the survey: https://gendereye.org/survey/