Equality and inclusive practice
Equality means being fair, respectful and recognising the individual needs and identities of all others. It also refers to the way we handle cases of prejudice and discrimination to ensure there is fairness in the process and outcome. Inclusivity recognises that every child is uniquely different and benefits from us all working together as a united community.
What does inclusive early years practice mean?
Inclusive early years practice is the development of positive attitudes, clear strategies and positive approaches towards equality within early years provision. It also means providing children with the best possible support during the earliest years of their learning and growing, so they can live a fulfilling and happy life both now and in the future.
Why is equality so important for our youngest children?
Equality means giving everyone that opportunity to reach their full potential and an equal chance to live their life as they choose. However. inequality in the UK is growing. Yet it is recognised that a fairer and more equal society benefits everyone and supports young children’s development, health, education and well-being.
In young children this means giving equal chances right from the very start of life and ensuring they are not denied opportunities such as because of their ethnicity or where they live. Children have the right to be included and any adverse attitudes and behaviour towards them should be addressed. Adverse behaviours generally arise from a lack of understanding and fear by the offender. However, if this happens early on in life it can have a long-term impact on a child’s self-esteem, confidence and trust of others.
Early years settings are well placed to provide a safe environment where parents, staff and children can learn about each other’s differences and similarities and learn to empathise and value each other early on in life.
Inequality and disadvantage in the early years
Research shows us that early intervention protects the most vulnerable young children at risk of poorer outcomes because of
- Intergenerational disadvantage
- Adverse early experiences
- Social exclusion
- Inequality and discrimination
- Low income and poverty
- Parental mental and physical health difficulties
- Inadequate diet
- Housing issues
- Ineffective home learning environment
- Lack of quality early education
- Insecure attachments
- Parenting issues and lifestyle choices
Early years settings play a crucial part in offering support to the most vulnerable children and families within disadvantaged communities. The was evidenced by the Effective Provision for Pre-school education ((EPPE) research by Sylva et al, in 2004. The research findings consistently found that early childhood experiences set the trajectory for a child’s life outcomes.
The Alliance provides a wide range of Children-and-family-services which offer support, advice and training within disadvantaged communities. For more information on early intervention and the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families see the Alliance publication The Right Start.
Which individuals are most affected by inequality?
Specific individuals and groups may encounter systematic, attitudinal and physical barriers to equality because of their personal circumstances and characteristics. There is some legal protection against this inequality called prohibited conduct, however, this is limited to nine defining elements called protected characteristics. Despite this legal defence, some of these ‘protected’ individuals in the UK still face disadvantage and discrimination. A report from the Equality Human Rights Commission found that prejudice is experienced across all protected characteristics, which included:
- 29% of respondents stating that they felt strong discomfort with the idea of a connection to a family member with a mental health condition
- 25% disabled people with a physical impairment reporting that they experienced prejudice because of their impairment
- 54% of people from ethnic minorities said they had been a victim of ethnic or racial prejudice
- 46% of lesbian, gay or bisexual people said they had experienced prejudice based on their sexual orientation
- 44% of respondents were openly negative about Gypsy, Roma and Travellers
How can settings be more equal and inclusive?
Settings need to be confident and competent in their ability to be inclusive. This is more than meeting policy and legislative requirements set out in the EYFS (2017), Equality Act (2010) and other relevant legislation such as the Children and Families Act (2014) and goes far beyond a welcome poster and cultural artefacts. This is about developing inclusive attitudes, a can-do approach to equality and modelling positive behaviour so that this practice is demonstrated to the children in the setting.
The Alliance has produced resources to support inclusive practice:
- Free equality training to member settings via our online training platform Educare
- An Alliance publication Guide-to-the-equality-act-and-good-practice (2015)
For more information call us on 020 7697 2557