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Big brother program supports those in need

Goodstart centres

Offering a Big Brother program for children who display challenging behaviours, or do not have a male role model in the house, is the latest initiative introduced at Goodstart Tuggerah

The centre, which has 10 male educators making it unique in the Goodstart network, is using its workforce to great benefit. 

The Big Brother program aims to provide additional support for emotional wellbeing, socialisation and build a greater sense of belonging for children who either struggle to regulate their behaviour of do not have a male role model in their home environment. 

The first excursion was to a cafĂ©, and the team are now planning a trip to a reptile park. 

Goodstart Tuggerah centre director Adam Angwin said the benefits of the program were to encourage children to find a safe place to explore their emotions with a strong male role to support them. 

“It’s also an opportunity for the educators to role model how they would respond and act in situations which may cause anger, frustration or sadness,” Mr Angwin said. 

Mr Angwin said Tuggerah was unique in early learning, in that it has 10 male educators on the books. 

“It’s something that I’m pretty proud of – I really enjoy being able to offer our families something different. And there are many benefits to having more men in early learning,” Mr Angwin said. 

Firstly, he says research reveals if children have strong father figures in their lives, there’s a positive impact on brain development and language. 

“These same principles are applicable in an ECEC setting. There are significant developmental impacts that male educators can have in the lives of children in our care,” Mr Angwin said. 

Secondly, he said boys develop differently to girls. 

“This is not a topic that is often openly discussed and having a male educator support growth and development allows for young boys the opportunity to be nurtured and cared for in a way that is different to the nurturing and care traditionally provide in an ECEC setting.”

And thirdly, he believes it is positive for children to be exposed to both genders when at the service. 

“It is great for them to see how females and males collaborate and communicate together without any gender stereotype issues,” Mr Angwin said. 

“For some children they do not have a male role model in their home life and our male educators are able to provide role modelling and a positive attachment for these children with a male.”

With his team of ten male educators, making Tuggerah unique in the Goodstart network, Mr Angwin is using the above benefits to ensure every child at the service has the best possible start in life. 

Many of his educators have had past careers, including as working in the banking and finance industry, in security, carpentry, hospitality, and early learning care. 

“We all come from different backgrounds and bring with us different life experiences, strengths and talents,” Mr Angwin said. 

“It is not about the males being the maintenance man or the educator who deals with the big behaviours from children, it’s about providing children with everything possible that will encourage and allow for healthy development and learnings as they navigate their first five years of life.”

Like many other countries throughout the world, Australia’s early learning workforce consists of more than 90 per cent women. In primary schools, about 17 per cent of the teaching staff is male. 

Mr Angwin said his team and families embraced and celebrated the number of men working in the centre because it gave their children the opportunity to be surrounded by both female and male role models.

“It think it directly overcomes the typical stereotypes males and females play in a child’s life and the workplace.  

The team works with local universities and TAFES to promote their centre, and provide support through networking so males don’t feel isolated within the industry or while studying. 

“The children do not see that having males in the learning environment is something as unique or different like we see it,” Mr Angwin said. 

“They’re not aware of the social perceptions that creates judgement expressed by adults. They only see a human, someone who is sharing their friendship and care with them, someone who is there in the fun times and the challenging times, just like their family members are. “

The centre is working on a plan to upskill the current males working in the service via degree and diploma study, introducing new social and support programs for fathers, and building networking groups for men in early learning throughout the sector.
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