Boisterous boys need more male teachers

By Megan Jones

Men involved in early childhood education are lobbying for more "boy-friendly" childcare.

The 167 men among more than 15,000 preschool teachers have formed the newly incorporated EC Men NZ, which aims to boost their representation to 10 per cent within a decade.

Chairman Russell Ballantyne said New Zealand had one of the lowest rates of male preschool teachers among developed countries. Even Poland has more men in childcare.

Fear of being accused of sexual misconduct, low status and the feminisation of early childhood education are key reasons men have steered clear of childcare centres.

Ballantyne runs a "boy-friendly" preschool in Dunedin where kids can play with toy guns and swords, ride bikes and wear superhero outfits. He has four male teachers on his payroll.

Ballantyne believes more men are needed in early childhood education to ensure boys' interests and behaviour are respected and catered for.

He said boys often needed more boisterous and aggressive play than girls, and the lack of men in childcare meant they were often not getting it.

"People tend to think of aggression as violence but we need to differentiate between the two."

Young boys also needed more positive male role models.

"Children will not be able to construct positive images of what a male is if they don't have the opportunity to learn what 'good' men are like."

Ballantyne said women needed to learn there were many good men who were physical and nurturing.

"If you have more men about, fathers are more likely to engage with the centre, and this will again help men to be more comfortable in their parenting roles."

Ballantyne also believed men needed to have a say in what was taught.

EC Men NZ has already successfully lobbied Teach NZ to increase the representation of male early childhood teachers on its website and print publications and wants to get involved in education policy-making.

- Herald on Sunday

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