More male pre-school staff than ever before
According to Hagstofa Íslands (Statistics Iceland), in 2019, 462 of the country’s 6,410 pre-school staff were men. Nine of those 462 men were pre-school heads and therefore primarily occupied with management and administrative activities.
The number of men in Iceland working as pre-school teachers or supporting the upbringing and education of children at pre-schools is 355, and a further 37 men provide support to children with special needs.
Only 79 men worked at Icelandic pre-schools in 2000. That number had risen to just 253 by 2010.
Lovísa Rut Jónsdóttir, a group teacher at Furugrund pre-school in Kópavogur, says she would like to have more male colleagues. Two assistants at the school are young men who, she says, connect differently with the children than the school’s excellent female staff members.
In her experience, male staff are happier to play with the children indoors and outdoors, and are more likely to lose themselves in play along with the children while still remaining responsible adults.
Lovísa Rut says she celebrates each and every job application from men, which are steadily increasing along with the number of job applications overall. She says many people now apply for each vacancy. Pre-schools are more used to struggling to fill positions.
Þórunn Ósk Þórarinsdóttir, head of Reykjakot pre-school in Mosfellsbær, agrees, saying that it is good for the profession and society overall to have more men working at pre-schools.
Lovísa Rut and Þórunn Ósk both say it is important for the children to share their pre-school time with both male and female staff. While the sexes are still sometimes seen to perform different roles, at pre-school everybody does the same things. At the same time, the more diverse the staff, the richer and more complex the community within the school becomes.
Both teachers point out that working in a pre-school is hard and that there are strict standards staff must adhere to. They say it is good to see men applying for jobs despite the clear message within society that it is near impossible to run a household and a family on pre-school wages. That myth is not at all true, they say.
Just as at Furugrund, Reykjakot also has two permanent male staff members. “When men come into the job, you can say that they are more open and allow themselves to play, which is really nice. It makes a big difference. Women reflect themselves against other women, but the men have nobody to reflect against, and that is precious,” Þórunn says.