Early Start Conference 2017, The Delegates Choice Award and Men in Early Education.


Big Fat Smile were major partners of the Early Start Conference held in September 2017. The Conference theme was “Helping Children Flourish and Realise Their Potential: Translating Research for Policy, Practice and Community”, which fits in so well with our vision and values at Big Fat Smile.

We had two of our awesome educators create posters to present at the event – Matt Leslie from Rosehill Community Preschool and Phil Anderson from Cobblers Hill Community Preschool.



Unfortunately, Phil could not attend, so Andrew Clifford, an Inclusion Professional with experience as an Educator, stepped in to talk to everyone about Phil’s work.

It was fantastic to see the amount of conference attendees talking with and listening to both Andrew and Matt explain their posters, with their passion for Early Childhood Education evident.

Both posters were the final two in the judging contest, and the delegates could not decide between both. To agree on a winner, the conference organisers asked Early Start Academics to make the final choice and Matt’s presentation won!

Congratulations to Matt on winning The Delegates Choice award. Below is an abstract of his prize winning poster concept.

Having been in the early childhood industry for my entire adult life, I have grown accustomed to the fact that I am quite different to any of my colleagues, but if not for my gender, should I be considered to be any different at all? I can change nappies, devise and implement programs and, I have a solid rapport with children. Personally, studying early childhood meant being the only male in the room at any given time. Every teacher I encountered was more than supportive of me. In fact, I was hired by Big Fat Smile because of the head teacher of the very first course I ever completed. She saw something in me when I couldn’t see for myself, and I have been fortunate to work for such a progressive company and have enjoyed their support for the past nine years.

We know now that children need a balanced education and there is an argument that male educators help maintain this balance. In an industry that is apparently so desperate for male workers, why is there such a lack of numbers? Wardle (2008) seems to think men “enter a zone of difference when they take early childhood classes and when they are hired to work with young children” and that this is caused by nothing more than traditional (or archaic?) views still held by many within the industry. So how do we go about changing the status-quo? Wardle even notes an experience with a female director of a service who refused to hire male workers. The feminisation of early childhood by both men and women alike is a huge part of why men are refusing to enter the industry and why they will continue to do so.


Here are just a few snippets that male educators have heard over the years. ‘I’ve never met a man in childcare. Are there many men in childcare?’ ‘Julia really likes you. It must be because she’s only got her Mum at home’ and ‘It’s great to have a man working with us today. The children really need a male role model’. What in the world is a ‘good’ male role model? If by “good male role model” you mean, an adult who takes the time to get to know children, know what their interests are and what makes them tick. If it means that care about the children and I and want to have a lasting, positive impact on their lives, then sure, sign me up. The traits of a good role model are gender neutral; it is as simple as that! Anyone can do this; it doesn’t make me a ‘good male role model’ it just makes me a good person.

Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. I (and I’m sure others like me) do not succeed at my job because I am a man. I am not just a ‘man’; I am a teacher – a damn good one at that.

Matt Leslie.

We are very proud to have Educators like Matt, Phil and Andrew representing Big Fat Smile and advocating for children, families and their communities.