My employment in Playwork evolved very naturally from my own volunteering experiences. After graduating from University I decided to both look for employment, and try and gain more experience through Voluntary work.
This in turn led me to start volunteering at Bish Street Kids to gain experience, as I thought getting experience of working with children could potentially open up other career paths. After volunteering at Bish Street Kids for a few months some staffing vacancies appeared, and as I already knew what the job entailed I decided to apply for a part time position at the club.
Thus my career in Playwork can be traced back directly to my own voluntary experiences as without I may not have started working as a Playworker.
Throughout my volunteering I grew accustomed to the role and most of all I found the work enjoyable. For me personally one of the best aspects of the work is how much of it is child led. Although we do strive to provide activities for the children, a large amount of the work boils down to facilitating a child’s own personal needs and wants in regards to play activities.
I enjoy this as not only do you often have to think creatively, but a large amount of the time the children could be participating in activities which they don’t normally have the chance to do, thus making parts of the play actual learning experiences for the children as well.
I spent two decades working for a major IT company, always taking time to help my wife with the jobs that children bring. I found I got more satisfaction from helping and playing with my children than I got from my job, so I started to volunteer at the local pre-school playgroup. Just a day here or there, but I tried to get there at least one day every term. My life went on in that vein, lots of hard work, enlivened by days helping the Playgroup.
In summer of 2007 my wife fell ill and needed my support at home – so I spent less time in the office, no overnight stops, no long journeys, to make sure my wife attended all her hospital appointments, was getting the rest she needed, as well as making sure my children were enjoying their childhood. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home – and whilst I did the ‘day job’, my childrens needs (then aged 11, 9 and 5) became my priority.
Sadly in December 2007 my wife died and I had become a single dad, with three children. The challenge was to bring them up. and try to keep my job. About the same time the recession hit, and expectations from my employer rose – long meetings – overnight trips – requests to travel to India and to Europe.
I am sure there are some people who could do all that and remain the constant in their childrens lives, but after fighting the fight for a further six or seven years it became clear that things were coming to a head. In the intervening years I had continued to give a day or so per term to help at the Playgroup – it actually became an important element in my ‘support’ – a chance to play with children, to make things, to read stories…but with no real responsibility! Wonderful therapy for me.
In Feb 2014 I agreed a redundancy package with my employer, a major crossroads in my career – what was I going to do for the next twenty plus years?
I needed something that I enjoyed, that rewarded my soul (if not the pocket), and something I seemed to be good at. I spoke to a friend of mine about her job – running the local after school club – and that was the first time I heard the words “play worker”. It was a simple decision to make, working with children – getting engaged with their fun, helping them develop their own ideas outside the boundaries of a classroom. I started my Level Three training in Playwork in April 2014 and began my new career in “child care”.
I also found I could give a day per week to the playgroup, thus forming an informal link from preschool to the after school club. I see some of the children at work that I used to see at Playgroup, giving them a sense of continuity and a familiar face in their first sessions at their after school club.
I like to think of myself bringing some practical skills to the setting – fixing punctures etc – but also my own perspective on life. Resilience, working out strategies to deal with situations people are left in (often through no fault of their own), communications, planning, assessing risk to maximise the benefits etc. Actually I did all those things in my old job with the rewards being very hard for me to see. I do them now and get a beaming smile, or a hug, or the self-satisfaction that a child can now make their own bow and arrow. Brilliant.
It started with my mum and dad caring for children to give their parents respite. They looked after a boy with Downs Syndrome and also twins whose parents were part of a social care plan. I discovered that I enjoyed helping my parents care for these children and that must of sub consciously started my thinking about it.
When it came to work experience at school most things on offer were things like Topman etc and I had no desire to spend two weeks folding clothes, I mentioned it to my parents and they were friends with a deputy head at a Primary School, he was able to get me two weeks working in the reception class which I really enjoyed.
I spoke to my parents about the fact I was considering childcare and they took me to the open evening at college and I just enrolled there and then for the Btec National Diploma for Childhood Studies (Nursery Nursing).
The course started and there was 32 people on the course only one other male who left on day 2. I completed the course and got my qualification but struggled at points being in such a female dominated group.
I also used to get grief from friends and other people that didn’t know me. I even had placements where I felt I wasn’t excepted for being a male. The home placement, where you are in someone’s house with a baby, I was the only person on the course who couldn’t get a placement as no one wanted a male including a single dad. This led me to being placed in a baby room at a private day nursery. On the strength of that placement however I was offered a job there as soon as my course finished.
After a few years out travelling and working I applied for the Children’s Centre job. Feedback from the interview said I needed up to date experience in childcare again. I then went back into a private nursery setting for 18 months and re applied for the job at the Centre. This time I was successful and haven’t looked back since.
To this day it is not an easy path to take, there is often no balance of how people treat you. They are either put off by it and find something negative to say or they are over the top with the comments about how valuable having a man in childcare is.
I have learnt to deal with this and accept the praise and encouragement and use it to drive me forward but at times it often becomes quite off putting. You need an acceptance that you might never be ‘the norm’ and an awareness that you are in the minority and a confidence to deal with both of those things.
My name is S I am 31 years old. I always had an interest in going into Childcare but due to not going on to further education and trying to pursue a career in football I never really tried. The football never took off and I got stuck in the world of retail going from job to job. I was in retail from the age of 16 and managed to work up to manager at the age of 18 at JJB Sports and moved on from there to be store manager of Halfords in Harrogate.
My wife then got depression and it completely changed the way things were. I had to become a stay at home dad for my children and to look after my wife. Over the last few years my wife has got a lot better and has managed to go back to work herself.
I was put off trying to pursue a career in childcare because there felt like there was no clear path to follow to encourage me to do so, also every course I had looked at required high fees and lots of time of which I had neither. Networking opportunities are few and far between and information is very limited or not in the right areas to find. There is an expectancy that you will attend college or university but that is not always wanted.
I was asked to attend the Men into Childcare conference last year and this gave me the opportunity to re-ignite my interest in working in childcare. I was able to talk to the right people in the right place and thanks to meeting Tracy from York Learning during the conference I am now doing a ‘Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools’. Once I pass the course I am hoping to get a job at my chosen school in September when my youngest child starts school.
That chosen school is Clifton Green and the Head has been fantastic in allowing me to do placements within his school and also looking to offer me the opportunity of work upon completion of my course. I have never felt judged by being a male in my time at the school and I think that is due to the healthy attitude towards male staff that the school has. They currently have 7 male staff so it is never looked at as an issue.
In the summer of 2009 my wife and I decided it was best that I took on the main caring duties for our son who was born the previous November mainly, if not solely, because she earned much more than me (and still does!). To motivate me in socialising with J at various baby and toddler groups B would suggest a few churches around York which sometimes I tried out. As you can imagine these were attended mostly, if not entirely, by mums. For me this wasn’t always comfortable.
Finally, B came up with a good one; dads and toddlers at Clifton Childrens Centre run by Sid and Sam where blokes could share breakfast and talk about the important things in life, football. Seriously though we did sometimes talk about things concerning baby and child care.
In 2011 along came A, J’s’ sister. So I could legitimately continue attending Dads group when Jonathan started pre school and nursery. I think it was in 2013 that funding for the group began to be withdrawn. A few of us dads volunteered our services to keep the group running for a few months; by now Sid had long left and Sam had been deployed elsewhere. Predictably the group soon ceased completely. The end of an era.
This dads and toddlers group, and Sam in particular, gave me inspiration. As a consequence I have since volunteered helping a young mums group at the same childrens centre, attended a training course for Portage, volunteered at Marygate pre school where I am now working (paid) three mornings a week.