MEN are to be targeted in the next stage of the early-years national recruitment drive.
Ministers believe they have a lot to offer young children, including acting as positive role models and providing a male figure in a child's life when there is none at home.
Latest government figures show that just 4,300 of the 215,000 early-years workforce are men. Ministers now want to increase the percentage of men in the sector from 2 per cent to 6 per cent by 2004.
MPs on the Commons education and employment select committee want a government inquiry into the reasons for the low recruitment of men. Ministers have backed the committee's rcommendations, made following its own inquiry into the early years, that efforts be made to attract men.
The Early Years National Training Organisation will shortly be publishing a good practice guide encouraging employers to recruit more men, among other groups.
In its reply to the early-years inquiry, the Government reaffirmed that parents should decide whether childminders can smack and smoke when working - a belief in direct conflict with the select committee, chaired by Labour MP Barry Sheerman.
It agrees with the committee that the compulsory age of school entry should be the term after a child's fifth birthday.