Dear Mr Fletcher
Yes, we absolutely need boys to have positive role models, including teachers in early years, primary and secondary education, as mentioned in your speech at Westminster Hall, subsequent Twitter statement and in media articles like this from Sky News.
But it’s unhelpful to make this about replacing ‘absent fathers’, who are far rarer than your rhetoric seems to suggest. And it shouldn’t be just about boys.
Many children in separated families, including those facing multiple disadvantage, have highly involved fathers and father-figures (even if government policy does little to support men’s involvement in caregiving, via its hugely gendered parenting leave system, for example).
And those who don’t have actively involved fathers need much more than male fictional superheroes to give them the best start in life.
And its not just boys who need adults to care for them and look up to: children don’t just model themselves on adults of their own sex. Girls need to be surrounded by caring men, too.
Our education and childcare workforces should include more men because children should grow up seeing these as legitimate fields for men to involve themselves in – and because men, like women, have skills and qualities to bring to the work.
Our government – and MPs claiming to speak for men, and about masculinity – need to get their heads around, and invest in, strategies to increase male inclusion in these workforces. Just as we do to support girls and women into traditionally male areas, like careers in STEM.
The need for such action shouldn’t be news to anyone with even a passing interest in children, education, social mobility, fatherhood, parenting more widely, or men and masculinities. The early years workforce was 2% male in 1998. More than two decades later that figure is 3%.
Let’s please work harder to build a gender-diverse education workforce, rather than wasting time on pointless debates about the casting of women in TV shows about fictional time travellers.
There are many of us working on these issues, while the government’s priorities lie elsewhere. If you’d like to change things for the better, we’d be delighted to help you do that.