MENZ Issues

Children quarantined from men

Children are being “quarantined” from men by sexist recruitment policies in the early childhood sector, an industry body says.

Early Childhood Council chief executive Sue Thorne said children were missing crucial contact with male role models because men felt unwelcome in the profession.

The problem was linked to the “paedophile hysteria” that followed Christchurch’s Civic Creche abuse scandal involving Peter Ellis in the 1990s.

It was now too dangerous for male teachers to cuddle a distressed child or change a nappy because of the culture — and some parents refused to send children to centres that employed men.

Female domination of this industry is nearly complete:

A report issued yesterday by the Childforum research network says sexism is rife in the early childcare sector.

Of its 13,741 employees last year, just 132 were men, researcher Sarah Farquhar said.

“The child abuse argument has proven to be a convenient excuse to keep men out of an occupation that has been a site for feminist activism since the 1970s.”

There was no evidence that male teachers were more likely to abuse children, she said.

New Guidelines

New relaxed guidelines on physical contact between teachers and children are to be released today.

The guidelines advise NZEI members “to use common sense in all areas of their interaction with children and be mindful of situations that may expose themselves to unnecessary risk.”

Males teaching at primary schools are the next target:

A report by Auckland University education lecturer Alison Jones, released in 2003 highlighted interviews of primary school teachers and principals who spoke about their reluctance to touch children because of widespread social anxiety about sexual abuse.

The teachers reported wet and naked children wandering out of pool changing rooms looking for help in getting dressed, and girls lying prone on sports fields while male teachers sent children to find a female to help.

“In many instances, female teachers have had to be called away from their own groups to assist male colleagues afraid to touch or be alone with a child.”