Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, visited West Lothian College’s Forest Classroom yesterday to see the inspiring work being done by the childhood practice staff and students to get more men into early years education.

There were nursery age children from Glenvue Nursery School in Livingston. The activities were led by students studying the PDA Education Support Assistance and HNC Childhood Practice students.

The Minister had the opportunity to join in the activities and speak with staff, students and children about why they love the outdoor classroom.

The visit kicked off with a look at the set-up of the forest outdoor classroom and Ms Todd was given the rundown of what the children and staff work on in the forest. The classroom, which was created with money received from the Scottish Funding Council’s Men into Early Years Challenge Fund, has seen increasing use with more and more local nursery, primary and voluntary groups coming in for activity sessions led by students.

Speaking about the visit and the work being done at West Lothian College, the Minister for Children and Young People said: “We want to address the gender imbalance in the early learning and childcare workforce. It is fantastic to see how West Lothian College has used the money form the Men into Early Years Challenge Fund to encourage more men to consider a career in the sector.

“The college’s use of the forest classroom and outdoor learning goes a long way to challenge boys’ perceptions of working in an early years environment.

“Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve wellbeing and resilience, supports healthy living through physical activity and allows children to use the natural world to help develop their curiosity.”

Anna Styles, centre head for Sports and Fitness at West Lothian College, commented: “It was a pleasure to have the Minister to our Forest Class to share in our preparations for #MathsWeekScot with the children from Glenvue Nursery.

“The opportunity to explore, play and learn in a natural environment has such a positive impact on all aspects of children’s development, well-being and confidence and our staff team are so passionate in supporting our learners.”

HND Childhood Practice student Connor Green added: “It was great to meet the Minister for Children and Young People and discuss the importance of having male role models in Early Years settings. This is not a career I would have thought of when I was at school but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

The college has been shortlisted for this year’s Green Gown Awards in the Benefitting Society category for promoting men into childcare and using the forest classroom as a means of smashing stereotypes in this sector.