IT IS usually women who are battling stereotypes to get on equal footing with their male counterparts.
But six young men at South Downs College have signed up to a course that is overwhelmingly dominated by the fairer sex – and they are determined to succeed.
This year has seen the Waterlooville college’s biggest intake of men on the BTEC national diploma in children’s care to lead to nursery and primary school teaching, as well as social care and work in youth clubs.
Lecturer Jill Clausen is thrilled to count Josh Edwards, 16, Lucas Crees, 17, Jamie Gooch, 16, Connor Harnett, 16, Nick Hambrey, 19, and Jack Diprose, 18, on her course.
She said: ‘Usually we have one or two men on the course each year and that’s been the case for the past 20 years or so – to have six is unprecedented.
‘I’m over the moon about it. There’s a lack of male role models in primary schools and nurseries and yet a child at that age needs both male and female influences.
‘Children’s care has always been seen as a workplace for women, but I’m confident our lot can make a difference.
‘They’re brilliant students, not least because they’re having to work extra hard to prove themselves.’
According to recent figures from the General Teaching Council for England, one in four primary schools in the country has no male teachers and only 12 per cent of primary school teachers are male. The same statistics show there are only 48 male teachers in state nurseries.
Connor, who already boasts extensive childcare experience with five younger sisters he helps look after, said: ‘I enjoyed seeing my sisters grow up and how much I influenced them.
‘The early years are key to the development of a young person and that’s why I want to help.
‘On work experience I’ve noticed how much better young boys react to men they see as role models they can relate to.’
Lucas, who has a placement at Court Lane Juniors in Cosham, said: ‘There’s a bit of a stigma attached to men working with children but we’re trying to get rid of that and I think attitudes are changing.
‘What motivates us all is giving children the best start in life.’
Nick, 19, who aspires to work in social care, added: ‘I was an au pair for three young children and I loved it.
‘There’s no secret young boys are lagging behind girls in school, especially in reading and writing, because they are not being engaged – that’s somewhere I think we could make a real difference.’