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A short reflection on this Summit held at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute 8th and 9th April 2016

The EC-MENz Summit is an annual event and O have attended quite a few of them in the past. This was the tenth Summit and the goalk was to try and get more men into the workforce. This could be achieved if we had enough funding to employ someone part-time to visit schools and tertiary institutions to support male entrants there.

Aussie ideas/innovations to increase male participation
This was a presentation by Craig D'Arcy and the common ground he spoke about was the benefits to children and their development when male teachers were involved. He also spoke about the challenges and referred to employers, training institutions, potential male recruits, and policy makers.

The speaker informed us of the current government attitudes in Australia and said that subsidies in the industry is now about workforce participation and nothing about quality or trying to get more men into the workforce. He spoke about the low level of qualified staff required in the early childhood sector and that 15.7% of staff leave the sector each year. The 2013 concensus showed that there were 119,130 women compared to 3,122 men in ECE.

The speaker concluded by talking about a visit to a nature preschool in Norway and their service model where children went boating, fishing, camping and afternoon tea before finishing for the day.The focus of this presentatiion was to explain the benefits and challenges to involve men in thge early childhood setting in Australia as well as the lack of Government support and initiative in their policy.

Enactment of gender equity
The speaker, Maggi Lyall, a researcher from Waikato shared her findings on gender equity in the workplace and mentioned that her participants gender discourses were confusing as they were unsure how to identify gender and play. During her research she looked at four options:

  1. Teachers following children and their interests.
  2. Teachers directing children.
  3. Teachers giving children space, allowing children to create their own equitable curriculum.
  4. Teachers encouraging children.

The speaker asked us how we thought gender equity was understood and enacted in ECE and how her work was underpinned by theoretical perspectives. She referred to Michael Foucault's work on power in understanding how certain knowledges are created and disseminated and how others are left. For this project she collected data from interviews, policy reviews of main texts and held a discussion around how this research was relevant to men in ECE.

There were a number of questions from the audience around gender and a few of them centred around perceptions that differ between male and female staff expecially around the concept of risky play,colour coding that attracts boys and girls, and boy dress ups. It was generally agreed that the media played a big part in influencing minds in relation to gender equity.

How a virtues based programme supports children's transition to school
This was a presentation by two early childhood teachers who were confronted by behaviour issues as well as children showing a lack of respect at their workplace. Subsequently they heard of the virtues based project and decided to embrace concepts and strategies to address their concerns.

Their research into this programme was conducted over a period of two years and they felt that it had created a safe and happy environment at their workplace. Respect, responsibility, integrity, friendliness, confidence, creativity, justice, patience, determination, courage, perseverance, were some of the virtues that were considered important by the participants.

The speakers emphasised that virtues are different from learning dispositions. It was nice to hear of their success story researched at their workplace. Some of the strategies of the virtues project were:

  1. Speak the language of virtues - acknowledge, guide, respect.
  2. Recognise teachable moments.
  3. Set clear boundaries.
  4. Honour the spirit - celebrating the virtues of strength and identifying growth virtues.

Stepping out of isolation
The MENtor project was started in 2011 to support men in training. Martyn Mills-Bayne introduced himself as a lecturer from Adelaide and how this project puts male students with male mentors to support them through university by addressing their problems and offering them guidance.

This is an ongoing programme and the speaker spoke of an increase in international students at his university in recent times.