Innovative fatherhood initiatives from the Pre-School Learning Alliance

18 November 2008

The Pre-school Learning Alliance, which is actively raising the issue of father engagement in early years settings, has developed some interesting and very positive initiatives. The Alliance is keen to encourage the sharing of good practice throughout the sector.

What the Alliance is doing

  • The Alliance recently launched a 2009 Engaging Fathers Wall Planner – a practical resource intended to support early years practitioners to raise awareness about the benefits and enjoyment of involving fathers in the life of their child’s setting. It includes a useful pack of case studies showing how settings can positively involve and work with fathers. Visit their website shop to order copies.
  • The Alliance has developed and is delivering Time for Dads!, a one-day training programme for early years practitioners and policy makers to help them overcome barriers and address strategies for father involvement.
  • The Alliance has launched a dedicated webpage on involving fathers and plans to add more information to it over the coming months.
  • Regular features in the Alliance’s membership magazine Under Five, highlight the important role of fathers including a project in Milton Keynes called Pushchairs in the Park which regularly attracts participation from over 50 families. A third of adults who join in are fathers or male carers.
  • The Alliance is conducting a piece of joint research with the University of Derby to explore “the reported experiences of practitioners and male care-givers surrounding the everyday encounter at the nursery door", with the launch of a report planned for Spring 2009. One interesting finding is that many of the practitioners interviewed recognised that fathers may feel intimidated by the ‘female space’ of the early years setting and they identified their own age and experience as impacting on how effectively they were able to reach out to fathers. However, they did not specify that training around father engagement may be useful for themselves and/or colleagues. Such training would be not only be particularly useful for practitioners who did not engage so effectively with fathers but also for all practitioners to reflect on engaging with those ‘harder to reach’ fathers. In focus group interviews practitioners addressed the issue of ‘sexual frisson’ between female practitioners and fathers; this highlighted issues needing further exploration.
  • The Alliance is carrying out a specific piece of research into fathers’, mothers’ and young children’s views on involving fathers in early years settings. The Government, policy makers and practitioners all say that involving fathers and male carers is a positive thing. Do families agree? The research will explore this further and will report in Spring 2009.


Initial conclusions from our work over the past five years include:

  • the need to share among all early years settings the good practice that some settings have developed for encouraging father involvement.
  • recognising that although practitioners identify ‘an intimidating environment’ as being one of the factors that stop fathers from being involved in settings, everyone needs to be able work together to develop creative ways to think around this barrier.


For further information about any of the above issues, contact Tim Kahn by email or telephone: 020 7697 2574.
For more information on general inclusion in the early years visit  

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