2021 EC MENz Summit

Discussion Paper

Proposal for National Party Policy to deal with the Gender Imbalance in Early Childhood Care and Teaching

Presented By: Russell Ballantyne (President of the Men in ECE Network, (www.ecmenz.org) on 13th May 2010 to Anne Tolley (Minister of Education)

Paper Prepared By:  Dr Sarah Farquhar (policy adviser for EC-MENz) and EC-MENz


It is well documented that since the early 1990s the percentage of men employed in early childhood programmes (kindergarten and childcare) has been allowed to slip from over 2% to just less than 1%. This has serious implications for NZ’s international image as a trail-blazing social laboratory of promoting equality. It means young children are missing out on contact with male adults especially as it coincides with the ECE Strategic Plan’s focus on increasing the hours children spend in centres. It disadvantages men who are today valuing more and more the importance of being involved in children’s lives. Also, it means that in today’s times of staffing shortages employers have a smaller range of potential candidates for positions.

Support for the involvement of men in early childcare and teaching work has been expressed before by  National (see Appendix 1). United Future has explicitly stated that increasing the number of male teachers is one of its key three policy points, along with supporting teacher excellence and prioritising the paramount bond between parent and child especially in the first three years.

Since the issue of the decline in male participation rates within childcare and kindergarten programmes was brought to light in 1997, the media has very much been on the side of addressing reasons for the decline. There appears to be a high level of public support for children to have male teachers (see for example, the DVD of the TVNZ documentary on the Sunday programme), yet it seems for all the talk no real change will happen unless there are clear directives from government.

National Equal Opportunities recently stated that

Early childhood teaching is one of the most gender segregated occupations in the labour force (more gender segregated than fire-fighters! ). Much of the debate about male teachers has been focussed on views about the effect on children and in particular boys, but another important consideration is that of occupational segregation. A number of barriers to men’s participation in early childhood teaching have been identified. They include inadequate pay, low status and fears of accusations of abuse. But underlying that, in our opinion, are deep seated beliefs about the respective roles of men and women (www.neon.org.nz)

It would cost very little and make a tremendous difference for the National Party in Government to have policy that (a) says that men need to be recruited, trained and employed in early childhood centres, (b) ensures that TeachNZ and training organisations are accountable for this, and (c) requires the Ministry of Education to give necessary support to the sector to facilitate change. Such a statement would be consistent with other moves within the public sector such as the targeted advertising for women in the navy and army television campaigns and the recent moves identified in the  NZ Police Force Plan.

In July last year, the Police Strategic Plan identified diversity within its ranks as a top priority, and named four target groups Maori and Pacific Islanders, Asians, women, and young people aged 18-20. According to the 2006/07 police annual report, there are 8113 sworn officers in the force. Of those, 1358 are women and 52 are under 20. Officers do not have to disclose their ethnicity and around 10% do not. Of those who do, 838 are Maori, 311 are Pacific Islanders and 105 are Asian.

Allcock says the diversity targets are based on the changing demographic of New Zealand. “The police have to be representative of the community. We can’t all be European, male, middle-class officers.”


This policy would specifically cover the recruitment, training and employment of men in services that employ staff and who are not volunteers. Parent-run services such as kohanga reo and playcentre have not experienced a drop-off in male participation, and they actively encourage fathers’ involvement within programmes and within training (e.g. at the Aug 2008 Wellington Playcentre Association awards, 18 out of 321 graduates or 5.6% men received certificates towards the Playcentre Diploma).

Ec-menz represents men in the early childhood workforce.  We are very concerned about the low number of male teachers in our sector and the impact that this has on programmes and children.  We believe that our own curriculum states that children should develop relationships with adults which include both men and women but in most cases in practice it is only women.  We know that in most early childhood centres children will be without a male influence and both mothers and fathers will not be able to access a male perspective on child raising.  We believe that most parents want their children taught by both males and females and at present this is not being catered for in our sector.  The impact on children is that they have a narrowed curriculum due to the heavily gendered nature of the adults (ie women)  We also believe children are not able to develop ideas about gender identity due to the absence of male role models with their perception of “maleness”  at risk of being “media formulated” .

Why does Ec-menz view this as important?

1      We believe that teaching is a profession for both men and women and presently the recruitment campaigns in existence successfully only recruit women

2      We believe that both men and women bring an array of skills, experiences and attitudes to learning and child development  and that we need a combination of both to give children the best learning environment as possible

3      We believe that having more men within the teaching teams will enhance the dynamics that occur between the teachers and lead to a richness in pedagogical  discussion

4      We believe that at present there is no male perspective on learning and development within our sector and it is only the presence of more males that will help formulate this.  This is important if we truly want our fathers to engage with our children and to be equal partners in child raising

5      More males would provide our fathers with male role models which at present are lacking within general society.  Our fathers rely heavily on sport stars and celebrities for their construction of  “fatherdom” and this is not always the most positive model to aspire to.

6      We believe that the presence of more males in the early childhood sector will reduce the chance of the narrowing of teaching as a career opportunity for women only .  The presence of male teachers offers male children and young adults the possibility of teaching as a career.

We are concerned about the standard line adopted by the Ministry of Education that “the gender of the teacher is not important – what is important is “whether they are effective  teachers or not”( Richard Walley quoted North Shore Times 4th March 2010) .  Implicit in this line is that women are the best teachers and men are not because it is only women who have been recruited.  We strongly believe that both men and women can be good teachers – and the reason we don’t have good male teachers is that we have not gone out to recruit them.   One reason for our gendered workforce is the result of the poor targeting of advertising    – overseas research has shown that when advertising is targeted specifically to men,  men will respond.  The mainstream advertising used at present is ineffective and we need Teachnz to alter its line to attract men.

We are also concerned about the lack of accountability placed on colleges and training institutions who again have shown little enthusiasm to actively recruit men.  Each year they are funded enormous amounts of money, but offer little in recruitment practices and despite each organisation having EEO  statements they do little to practice EEO in selecting teacher trainee candidates.  Our organisation has approached all trainers with an offer to meet and discuss ways we can support them in attracting males, but received little response .

What we would like this Government to consider the following (cost neutral ) way to encourage an awareness of this issue through annual reporting and the reviewing of existing recruitment strategies.  By doing so this would encourage sector participators to evaluate their own effectiveness and then instigate programmes to address the heavily gendered nature of our workforce.

  1. The Ministry of Education to report annually on the number of males who are both teaching and training within the early childhood sector from data gathered from RS61. Statistics on drop-out rates for male and female students in all teacher education programmes will also  be collected to assess programme effectiveness
  1. TeachNZ advertising (print, radio, and television), scholarship awards and other recruitment activities will be audited annually for gender bias and changes recommended which TeachNZ would report through to the Minister on.
  1. TeachNZ staffing and recruitment practices will be immediately reviewed to identify ways that men can be more appropriately and effectively reached and supported through to acceptance by a teacher education programme provider.
  1. Training institutions and Kindergarten Associations to report annually in their EEO reports on their progress in recruiting and retaining male teachers
  1. The Education Review Office to report annually on the numbers of men within the early childhood sector and to promote successful programmes that increased male numbers.
  1. 6.  Teacher education providers will be permitted and encouraged to advertise and run courses specifically targeting, and designed for, getting men into early childcare teaching. These may for example, include having a class for men within an intake, a male-only course, or an entry-level (e.g. 6 month or 1 year) course for men after which they join the main programme (E.g. research suggests that men prefer to come into early childhood work as a second career after becoming a father or working in a traditional male occupation; men prefer to be in classes where there are other men, men want to have a  teaching practicum that includes opportunity to work alongside another male teacher)

APPendix 1

Early Childhood Education speech by Katherine Rich, Education

30 March 2007

Opening of Early Childhood Association Annual Conference, Christchurch Convention Centre, Friday 30 March, 2007 at 9.30am

Men in Early Childhood Education

The second issue I want to talk about is one that I know is dear to your hearts and a subject up for discussion at this conference – that is attracting male teachers into Early Childhood Education. Looking around this room, I can see immediately just how big this problem is. There are so few men in early childhood education that it would be possible to know them all by name.

Our male teaching rates for early childhood are lower than anywhere else in the world and the numbers are decreasing. The reasons for this are many, varied and still up for debate. Officials think that whenever you get too many women in a profession, that the status of that profession is lowered. Thanks very much whoever wrote that!! Another education official wrote that men were more driven in their vocational decision by “the three primary drivers of status – power, money and fame”. I don’t know how some analysts dream up this stuff. It sounds like a great job description for a Hollywood movie star and has no place in a discussion about how we get more men into teaching across the board.

I don’t know about you all but I don’t know anyone who thought like this before embarking on a teaching career – male or female.

I am sad to say I haven’t spoken to any male teachers yet at early childhood centres. That’s not because of a lack of trying as Paula Bennett, Associate Education Spokeswoman in charge of Early Childhood education and I have visited many centres over the last few months. (In fact, it’s timely at this point to acknowledge the huge amount of work that Paula Bennett has done in the sector since taking over as Early Childhood spokeswoman, meeting with centres and representatives from across the country. National is fortunate to have a young woman of her calibre with such a passion for the subject)

But when there are just over 1 percent of the sector who are male, I’ve decided it’s like trying to track a white rhino; there are plenty of reports but few actual sightings. One thing is certain. Not enough is being done to reflect any kind of male role in early childhood education.If TeachNZ is sincerely interested in recruiting men, why are there so few men pictured on the ECE section of their website? How come last time I checked there was not one single story from a male teacher on the personal stories section? There are many things to do to increase the number of men in early childhood education, the first must be to reflect their involvement in the sector in marketing materials and recruitment drives.

Meeting with Minister….
I feel the meeting went very well with the minister – she told me that cabinet had already approved her to raise this issue publicly – the challenge is to how to do this in a positive  validated way.She had said that she had many complaints to her office about the lack of male teachers in the sector from parents and knew of many organisations who wanted to employ men but couldnt find them.
She told me that when coming ointo office both her and the cabinet were very concerned on the eeo briefing paper that heralded the 97% female employment level – she remarked had it been reversed there would have been hell to pay….we talked at length of the eeo reporting and how it could be changed – i quote her – its just a stroke of a pen to add men as one of the groups in ece  so i honestly do feel that we have the support of this minister in our cause – the challenge is how she proceeeds to make change.She doid say that she will come back to us so i believe it is a positive turn for us …time will tell I expect.