IMG_08331‘Early Years – A Career For Everyone’    #NMEYC16

Saturday, February 13th, 2016, saw over 120 Early Years professionals from across the UK and Ireland come together at City College, Southampton to participate in an inspiring event, the first ever UK National Men in Early Years conference. Rewind a year and you witness the SAMEY meeting at which someone proposed a conference as a good idea, enthusiastically endorsed by everyone present. The challenges were not insignificant – no money, no venue, no speakers, no staff, no idea whether anyone would attend, oh, and no previous experience of organising such an event! Other than this we were extremely confident in our abilities – we had optimism on our side. Looking back now, it is amazing that the conference happened, that delegates supported us and that presenters and exhibitors so graciously offered their services. Firstly, City College provided their excellent facilities to us for the day, comprising a 200 seater theatre, an atrium with 4 floors with fully equipped break-out areas in which to host seminars. The students were volunteered to video and photograph the conference. There was a recording studios in which we would be able to record podcasts. How did we put the programme together? I’m not entirely sure. We took to social media and used our contacts in the press to promote the event (for which we had sold no tickets and had no speakers) and people got in touch – some of the top experts in the country volunteered their time to support the day by leading a seminar. What became clear was that there is support across the country for our activities. We generated a lot of interest. My email inbox was filling up with enquiries and offers of help, which arrived daily.  The trickle of enquiries turned into a flood and as the conference day approached we were able to choose topics for seminars from the offers we had.

The final programme comprised an opening session, followed by 2 groups of 4 seminars to choose from and a plenary session where presenters from the workshops formed a panel answering questions from the audience.

The first session opened with a video message of support for the conference from Sam Gyimah, Minister for Childcare and Education. Neil Leitch, CEO of the UK Preschool Learning Alliance, then gave an impassioned and personal talk in which he reminded us of the vital importance of early years and made the case for a balanced gender workforce to better meet the needs of all children. David Wright followed Neil with the challenge of whether we actually need men in early years or not.

Delegates had previously chosen 1 of the first set of 4 seminars –

Issues for Men in Early Years – Dr Simon Brownhill

My Journey – Men talking about their route into Early Years (Including Nursery Worlds Manager of the Year, James Crosswell)

Professional Love –John Warren, Fennies Nurseries

I love my job: Development and Retention – Childbase

Lunch was deliberately scheduled with sufficient time for networking, a chance to record podcasts and opportunity to tour the exhibition area.

The 4 afternoon sessions were –

International perspectives – Jo Warin

How to create a support group – Bristol Men in Early Years

Forest School – Eureka Nursery

Recruitment – Co-operative Childcare

We all came together again for the final session of the day, in the main lecture theatre. Presenters from the seminars formed a panel which fielded questions from the floor. It was a lively and passionate session with enthusiastic contributions from everyone. I captured the main points which I formulated into proposals. These have subsequently been forwarded to the government –

  • An explicit national target for the percentage of men in the Early Years workforce
  • A national organization for the promotion of and support for Men in Early Years
  • A recognised UK national online presence for Men in Early Years
  • Funding for research into the difference a balanced gender Early Years workforce makes on children’s outcomes
  • A “franchise” model for local support organisations
  • Support for and promotion of a national charter for Men in Early Years

We still await a response!

Delegates reviewed the draft national charter. This has now been published and is available for download from here National Men in early years charter

The presentations are available here –

Presentation – Jo Warin

Presentation – David Wright

Presentation – John Warren

Presentation – Simon Brownhill


Delegates at the conference volunteered to record a podcast describing their job role and their journey to it –