One man and his nursery

13th April 2001 at 01:00
The Government wants more men to break the mould and work in the early years. Clare Dean talked to a pioneer

WHETHER he is changing nappies for a living or doing the domestic chores at home, Rich Bailey is the ultimate example of a new man.

The 28-year-old has turned the tables on traditional stereotypes and is one of just 4,300 men nationwide working in childcare.

He is also believed to be the only male nursery nurse manager in Birmingham.

"Men who work with children have had a bad press in recent years, yet parents like the idea of a male childcarer," said Rich. "Our greatest challenge is to win their trust.

"With the growing number of single parents, it is becoming more important for children to have a positive and reliable male role model in the lives."

It's an idea shared by ministers, who are to target men in the next stage of the early-years recruitment drive.

They believe that men have a lot to offer young children. But parents are often surprised when Rich shows them around the pound;1.2 million Leapfrog private day nursery in Edgbason, Birmingham, that he manages.

"They ask whether I'm qualified and if I have been checked out by the police, which of course I am, as is everyone. But that's okay."

He had never intended to work with children. When he left school at 16 he planned to become a chef. When that failed, Rich ended up working in a private day nursery in London.

"I was a complete novice. I'd never changed a nappy before, never read a story to children. Even though my brother was six years younger than me, I'd never been left in the position of babysitting him."

Now, after more than 12 years in early-years education, Rich has a host of qualifications and is due to start his final year of a degree course in early-years studies at Birmingham University in September.

His wife Shirley is a computer programmer. Their three-year-old daughter Sophie is one of the 80 children aged three months to five years on the register of the Leapfrog nursery.

"Childcare is a highly challenging career, whether you are a man or a woman," said Rich. "But it is very rewarding."

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