Te Whānau   March 2013                                                                                                   EC-MENz  Incorporated

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

A special welcome to you all, and those who have travelled across our land from all around New Zealand.

So one year on – what has changed.  This time last year when we met in Whanganui, we left with a sense of purpose and some ideas of where we as an organisation were headed. We had a great time networking, sharing ideas and some great connections were made.

Let us celebrate the successes of the last year. We have a successful facebook page that is only open to members.  There has been a lot of robust discussion over a range of topics through the year. We have another facebook page that is open to share summit information. We published two newsletters and have continued our network meetings around the land. These men and women (of the committee) are committed to ensuring that we as an organisation progress, and have worked tirelessly promoting ECMENZ incorporated to their colleagues, friends and contacts.

But there is still work to be done. We have produced a brochure, thanks to Robin and Toni, for you to share with others, particularly students to lift our profile within our New Zealand ECE sector. As we know, male teachers often do not have contact with another male teacher for peer support. We represent the political and social interests of men in early childhood education and provide peer support to help retain men in the ECE sector.

We are well known on the world stage within men in early childhood circles. Back in 2006 I attended the first and last summit held for men in EC in Australia. I learnt ideas that helped to form this network. Now they’re asking us to help them. C&K Preschooling Professionals (they run over 500 centres in Queensland) have begun a Man in EC group. I will be attending their annual conference in Brisbane representing New Zealand, and they are paying for my airfare and accommodation. We have been asked to present a session about men in early childhood, on sharing the NZ men’s network experience, and how to keep the momentum going. With funding from an NZEI scholarship I attended and spoke at the world forum in Hawaii in 2011. And I have attended the Early Childhood Australia conference in Perth in September last year.

Slowly the statistics are improving, men now account for 1.9% of the early childhood workforce, up from 1.2% some three years ago. And there is more good news, with an increase in the number of men training in early childhood education at tertiary level.

The Ministry and Teachnz are aware of us, we share ideas and a few offers of help are received. However there continues to be a great reluctance to actively target men in recruitment drives for the early childhood sector.  It remains a fact that in New Zealand we have one of the lowest participation rates in the western world. On the TeachNZ website in 2013 they state…

“The demographic make-up of New Zealand is changing. The needs that were driving teacher supply 10 years ago were completely different from those of today. In particular we welcome more men into teaching, more teachers who can korero Māori and teach in Te reo Māori, and more teachers from Pasifika cultures. We need our education workforce to be as dynamic and diverse as our kids.”

So in this way they recognize that they need more of us – but do these few words on a website make you feel welcome? Will this tokenism be enough to attract more men into the sector? For the education workforce to more closely reflect the gender balance in society, we need to attract and retain more men.

We are a minority group and one of the biggest barriers to develop has been the lack of the financial base to operate from.  This raises a challenge – to be influential you need to have a presence and to have a presence this invariably costs.  Our committee and members have been able to attend meetings in their own region including the early childhood council conference and various other meetings. And all the costs had to be met by the committee themselves which severely dented our ability to be heard.  This needs to be addressed so we as a Society can achieve our aims as stated in the constitution.

Time constraints and geographical challenges take their toll on the elected committee.  We lost the services of some of the committee members due to work commitments and this has severely dented our ability to participate in the many Skype sessions that we have held during the year. However remaining members were enthusiastic and incredibly dedicated to our goals and I take this time to acknowledge the valuable support of the committee

Thank you to Peter Visser, who has been working on our strategic plan through the year. Also I would like to thank…. Childspace for the articles promoting men and this network in The Space magazine, Unitec (featured on TV1’s Close Up) and Wellington Kindergarten association and The Ministry of Social Development (Ymen) and you, if you’re a poster boy, this year.  When I meet new male teachers and ask them their personal story about what got them into the early childhood sector. They often refer to a TV programme, or an article in a newspaper that sparked their interest; so don’t underestimate what an article/picture in the paper can do.

I also need to acknowledge the intense work that Childforum has been doing for us behind the scenes.  Dr Sarah Farquhar has supported ECMENZ throughout the year and her commitment to our cause can never be undervalued.  She has been a great source of support for men in early childhood in general. She was invited and spoke at the Men in Early childhood education and care conference in Berlin last year. It will be inspiring to hear some of what she learnt there this weekend.

The Childforum early childhood network survey questioned hundreds of people involved with early childhood education services and teacher educators about whether they would like to see more men in the workplace and what benefits or disadvantages that could bring. Over one week in August she received more than 800 responses and the results form the basis of the article: Men are wanted in Early Childhood Teaching in NZ but Are Yet to Be Invited. For more information see our website.

More men in the early childhood education sector would not only bring a range of benefits for children, but could improve staff dynamics and encourage fathers to become more involved with their child’s education, a new survey reports. A more diverse workforce, with men represented as well as women, is seen as being necessary to expand the quality of early childhood education for children and bring different viewpoints and ways of working to the ECE profession and the sector.

Do you advocate for male teachers in early childhood while at meetings? Do you say that you are a teacher working on the floor or do most people think you are a centre owner? It is very timely that Sarah will talk to us this weekend about how to advocate for men in early childhood in our own context, here in New Zealand.

We need to ensure that our message is reaching 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 also warn there is no point having a network 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.

Action needs to begin with us, promotion to attract and recruit more male teachers and then retention through mentoring, networking and support. 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 2013 with a new determination to make a difference.

So I welcome you all here today and look forward to 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 on the foundations we have 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.

At this time I want to thank Albert for all his hard work. There is a lot of time and effort required behind the scenes to put together a summit like this, so we thank you for making this summit possible. A special thank you to you and your team.

Yours,

Adam Buckingham

President ECMENZ Inc