Name: Michael Walker-Takacs
Current job: Nursery manager
What brought you into early years work?
I always wanted to work in a caring profession, from when I was quite small. I didn’t have any experience of looking after children, and was going to go into nursing, but a good (female) friend of mine wanted to work in a nursery and we ended up doing it together. Once I’d seen what the work involved and then later took on more responsibility, I was hooked.
What was your route in?
I started at the age of 16, studied for my Level 2, then went on to do my Level 3 (in 2006). A few years ago I started a degree course but left after one year; but I have an accredited SENCO (special educational needs) qualification from Liverpool City Council. So in total I’ve been in this field for 17 years and in my current position for 12.
What reactions have you had from colleagues?
In my first job I didn’t feel supported by the management. I’m gay and they told me I should keep my sexuality secret from parents and even from colleagues. It was like “keep your private life to yourself”. At the time, only being 16-17, I just thought there was nothing I could do to question it. Apart from that, most colleagues are positive about me being there, like it’s good to have a man on the team – although I have had a few staff members who haven’t liked being managed, and I think that’s been because I’m a man.
What about from parents?
Mostly the parents see us as the same as the women, but it can take a little while. Bear in mind I’m 6ft 2in and 16.5 stone, so that’s perhaps not what people expect to see greeting their children when they drop them off. But then they see me being gentle, kind and professional, and they soften. I make myself very approachable, so they get the chance to get to know me.
I’ve had three cases where parents have objected to me toileting their kids. The first was a police officer – but in the end the child dealt with it for me, because they would only ever settle with me, so in the end the guy could see what a good relationship we had, and relented.
And what about from the children?
At first they’re often a bit scared – as I said, I’m quite big – but I’m just like all the other staff, I know my stuff and I know how to relate to the children, and they see that and respond.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Watching them develop to the point where they’re ready to go off to school, and knowing that you’ve helped them achieve that – it’s an amazing feeling.
What are the downsides?
Sometimes you work hard to put in all the support needed for SEN children, and then the local authority still tells you there isn’t a place in a mainstream school; that’s what I really hate. When I was working in a classroom all the time, I found the paperwork a bit too much; now I’m on the management side I don’t like to see people going into this type of work, who aren’t really committed to it.