EC-MENz Incorporated) (NZ)
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa
Nga Mihi nui. Nga Mihi mahana
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa
A special welcome to Ron and Chris Blatz, who have voyaged across the globe from their home in Winnipeg. Ron has agreed to travel down here to share the stories from his region of Canada and to outline the ways he has been instrumental in the recruitment and retention of male teachers in his centre in Canada. We look very forward to his presentation and his contribution over the next two days. We also welcome Professor Helen May who will highlight the historical influences that males have had in this sector and perhaps this will lead to the question “Why has male influence and participation become so absent over the past century?”
We also welcome Richard Walley from the Ministry of Education who has agreed to attend and deliver a “state of the nation speech” and I am certain that this will be of extra interest considering the election of last year with a new rider at the helm.
So one year on – what has changed. This time last year when we met in Porirua we left with a sense of purpose and some ideas of where we as an organisation were headed. We had a committee of eight, a set of goals, and some great connections had been forged.
One year on we could state that despite these good intentions the year had not been successful as we had hoped. The election came and went and although we were able to get a hearing with Nationals Paula Bennet, the collective political awareness of our position was basically left untouched (despite the efforts of a brave and dogged few). We were able to meet with the Ministry and Teachnz, and although ideas were shared and offers of help were received, it rapidly became apparent that the issue of targeting men in recruitment drives for the early childhood sector was too “hot” and problematic. Whilst we were pleased with the offer of support and resources, the fact remains that New Zealand has this shameful statistic of men accounting for 1.2% of the early childhood workforce – one of the lowest participation rates in the western world. The lack of willingness to actively advertise in a concerted and overt way to attract men into our sector is in my mind scandalous and out of touch with international research including that of our presenter last year, Kenny Spence, whose work in Scotland confirmed the importance of men being invited into the sector. I am confident that Ron will also add weight to this point. At our meeting last year we invited TeachNZ and the Ministry to be confident in pushing for male recruitment as the non participation rate of males in the Early Childhood workforce was well known and obvious. As such an active recruitment campaign would be expected and applauded by most of those whom I am in contact with on a day to day basis, so I am intrigued as to where the heat of opposition lies.
There are many arguments in the debate about increased male involvement in early childhood. One frequent debate we hear is the fear that the standards will fall if we allow men into the service just because they are men. I am not aware of anyone in Early Childhood suggesting that we lower any entry systems or criteria to allow men in. We too want good teachers – but we believe that good teachers are both male and female. Perhaps what we do ask however is that we review the criteria and systems to ensure that they are attracting a diverse array of good teachers to match the diverse groups that use our education system – including both gender and ethnicity. Perhaps when the debate becomes more informed and looks at what has worked overseas to attract males then progress in achieving our 10% in 10 years will be made. Perhaps if we develop more of the inquiring mind that we seek in our children and investigate what are the barriers to men participating and then work at meeting these – then real progress can be made. To say it is too hard, too complicated is a cop out and a behaviour none of us would let go in the children we teach.
I also am very cognisant of parental views on this issue and ask where do their needs be met? What Choices do parents have in our early childhood education system to have their child taught by a male? Where do they take their children to build affective relationships with men? The answer is “no where”, as this is not catered for. Our own Curriculum states throughout its underpinning principles that children will develop relationships with adults – not only women but men – but again where in our centres does this happen?
We have three men in our centre working alongside ten women. Our children daily live with men and women working positively alongside each other, both learning and teaching together. They view men and women laughing, grumping , caring, loving, singing, reading, swinging, running – a whole gamut of actions that are shared, reproduced and delivered in their own way. They learn that both men and women can be fun, can play jokes, can be angry and can be kind, like singing and digging and some even can fit down the slide. Our parents, like our children, have a choice of who to approach, but this time there are men in the equation as well as women- big men, loud men and a quiet one , choice that most other centres do not have. Are we special – I don’t think so – it is the others that are lacking rather than us being special?
Who do the men go to? If we expect men to take an increased role in childminding where are the models out there for them? Who do they have to talk to about fathering? We talk loosely in our centres about parent support but should we not really call it mother support??? What about the male perspective of childrearing – where is the male view shared? Are our programmes truly representative of societal expectations and ideals or is there a dominant discourse in place here that values some learning over others. What do men think is important in programming and how do we know?
There is also the belief that the presence of men will reinforce traditional stereotypes which is in itself a contradiction of what we know to be the development of gender identity. We know that gender identity is fluid and is continually being constructed by the child in their immediate context. Therefore this would suggest the need to have a variety of males in the early childhood service to actually allow children to construct a more complex appreciation of gender – the absence of males would in fact limit a child’s view of masculinity rather than develop that. If we want our children to see the options available to them in terms of gender then surely it is important that they have multiple models to develop that from. And how can we really have this debate when men are not in the sector to have their voices heard? Who speaks on their behalf?
Another barrier often put at the feet of males is the fast promotion they have through the career structure. Again this is a system issue and hardly one to lay at the feet of men. If our appointments process is advantaging one group over another then it is surely time to look at those processes – especially with the number of employers who purport to be EEO employers.
However I digress – Back to 2008 …..One of the biggest barriers to develop in the past year has been the lack of the financial base to operate from. This raises a conundrum – to be influential you need to have a presence and to have a presence this invariably costs. Our committee was able to attend meetings in their own region including the AKA centenary and various other meetings. Whilst the Education Ministry funded airfares for myself to attend a meeting in Wellington, all other costs had to be met by the committee themselves which severely dented our ability to be heard. This seriously needs to be addressed so we as a Society can achieve our aims as stated in the constitution.
This issue was further highlighted by the time commitment and geographical challenges that took their toll on the elected committee. We lost the services of Peter Visser our vice president and work commitments severely dented Bernard Woodham’s ability to participate in the many Skype sessions we held during the year. The technology component also meant we very quickly lost connection with Garth Armstrong as the year progressed.
However the remaining members were enthusiastic and incredibly dedicated to our goals and I take this time to acknowledge the valuable support of Simon Easton, David Baxendell and Robin Christie. These three men were committed to ensuring we as an organisation progressed and worked tirelessly promoting ECMENZ incorporated to their colleagues, friends and contacts. It is no surprise that we have KidsFirst Kindergartens as a major sponsor and I thank both them and David for their presence today. It is these contacts which result from a strong will coupled with a dogged determination that will ensure that our message reaches the sector. I hope that many here today will leave with a similar resolve which will result in the sector not only demanding action, but taking action. It is through the voice of members such as you that the gateway to change will be opened and the pathway defined.
I pause now to acknowledge the role that my Centre, Early Childhood on Stafford, has taken to support this cause. We have not only walked our talk – we have danced it and I only hope that others will soon embrace this cause with as much commitment at centre level as we have. In particular I wish to acknowledge my business partners Robyn and Sue who have not only supported but encouraged my participation and have carried the workload in my absence. I acknowledge the presence of our staff here today who have joined us to learn more and am proud of their support of an issue that is less of an issue in our centre than most.
I also need to acknowledge the intense work that Anthony Keesing has been doing for us behind the scenes. Anthony has many contacts and works for a number of organisations wearing many different hats. He has supported ECMENZ throughout this year and his commitment to our cause can never be undervalued. He has been a great source of support for me personally and men in early childhood in general.
Ok so what has been successful over the last year? We have successfully become an incorporated society and now after 9 months of delay and procrastination we have finally been awarded charitable status. This process was incredibly important and hopefully will help address the financial base issue. As stated previously we need financial support to operate successfully and we can now apply for funds from various sources to achieve this. If we are successful in achieving funding this will not only allow us to be where we should be in terms of influence groups in ECE but will also help share the workload on the members. One of the aims from the 2008 summit was to appoint a CEO to attend to the day to day operations of our organisation and to provide a continuous link to our members and the ECE sector. The need for this became even more apparent as the committee members fell into absence zones depending on the day to day challenges they faced in their own careers. We must seek to protect ECMENZ from a haphazard, piecemeal availability if we are to truly address the inequalities that face our children and their families/whanau in terms of gender models and programming choices and a CEO will help address this.
However, I also warn there is no point having a CEO if we don’t have an active membership. We have moved from an email list of 160 to now ECMENZ Inc. membership of 80. Already we have lost members and we need to be proactive in achieving growth. Where have these people gone? And why have they lost interest? These questions need to be answered and again this is up to us as a group to face these challenges. It is too easy to come together each year and discuss the inequalities and then disappear into the fog for another year without making a contribution. It is almost like the Judean People’s Front discussion from the life of Brian on whether Reg can have babies, and whilst we can argue the rights and wrong – it is the action that counts. It is from our actions that ECMENZ will be measured and it is action that will put more men into the sector to grow the skill bases, talents and experiences of our early childhood teachers. So the question each and every one of you should be asking is what can I do to make it better??
The challenge now is to face 2009 with a new determination to make a difference. I call upon all sectors of ECE to support our intention of having 10% of the workforce male by 2018. I ask that Government agencies monitor male involvement in pre-service training and work with our organisation to better help retain the men that have made it into our sector. I ask that pre -service trainers be more reflective in their practices and review the number of males that they are attracting into their programmes and set targets and strategies to increase male recruitment and retention numbers. There is no better time to make things happen than now – with the economic slowdown we know that when men are faced with employment uncertainty many then look to retrain and let us use this opportunity to make our sector richer.
So I welcome you all here today and look forward working with you over the next two days – this will be an important time in which we establish our pathway for the next year. It is important that we build the foundations to grow and to leave this Summit in the knowledge that we are all heading in the same direction. Our organisation already has much support in the sector – it is time we used this.
President ECMENZ Inc