FATHERS across Scotland are being frozen out of their children’s lives by a regime of “systematic exclusion” in public institutions including schools, hospitals and nurseries, MSPs have been told.
There is a “consistent problem” with the portrayal of families in Scottish life which sidelines fathers, Holyrood’s equal opportunities committee heard yesterday.
The all-women staff make-up of nurseries and primary schools across Scotland came under fire by fathers’ support groups who said that many public services are “mummy-centric.”
David Drysdale, national development manager, Fathers Network Scotland, told MSPs: “My take is that, in our culture and society, we believe that men exist on a spectrum of either useless or are at worst violent, abusive and a risk.”
He added: “It’s such a one-dimensional view of men.”
Kenny Spence, manager of the Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project, voiced concerns that 40 per cent of Scottish primary schools have no male staff at all.
This leads to problems for estranged fathers in getting information from schools which tend to contact the mother first and only open their doors to fathers on a single parents’ night a year.
Mr Spence said there were “not enough men” working in schools.
“If you were a little girl who came home from hospital where it was all men, went to nursery and it was all men, then went to primary and it was all men, what kind of little girl would you grow up to be?” he said.
“Yet we think it’s OK for boys. That’s an indictment of us and we should be addressing that.”
Similar problems exist at pre-school level, Mr Drysdale added.
“I heard a great story yesterday from a dad from Fife with his partner and daughter who told me he had gone to a parent and toddler group and was refused entry because he was a man and had to take his daughter elsewhere to play.”
Many fathers are barred from antenatal classes by the NHS, according to Thomas Lynch, chairman of the group Dads Rock, who branded this “embarrassing”. “I’ve spoken to dads who have been asked to leave antenatal groups because of that whole embarrassment for the mothers.”
Robert Hall, chairman of the Familyman Playgroup, said it can be “difficult for new fathers who are barred from attending antenatal classes”.
He added: “You get that feeling straight from the get-go that you don’t really count.”
Clare Simpson, project manager of Parenting across Scotland, said there was a “consistent problem” in the portrayal of the family. “Generally speaking, it’s a mother and one or two children,” she said.