What is equality, diversity, and inclusion in childcare?
In childcare the term 'equality' means to ensure that all children are treated fairly, protecting their rights and offering the same opportunities regardless of any protected characteristics. Though children may come from diverse backgrounds, they should be treated equally and inclusively at all times.
All children are unique, and some children have additional needs which must be met when it comes to their care. Through careful observation of children, their starting points, needs and interests, subsequent learning experiences must be planned and differentiated according to their differences. By dealing with these differences appropriately, it can reduce the chances of discrimination within the childcare sector.
The aim is to create an environment that all students can thrive in by understanding that individual characteristics make people unique and prevent them from seeing differences as a negative thing from their early stages of development. By stressing this from day one in childcare and education, it will have an impact on how they treat others for the rest of their lives.
Additionally, having carers that embrace diversity means all children can be treated fairly, and as a result they are given a better start in life. By having professionals that fight against discrimination, then they are setting the right example for the children to follow and creating a better environment all round.
The Equality Act 2010 is the legislation surrounding the topics of equality and diversity to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. This can cover all areas of society, including childcare, but whatever the area, it works off the basis of nine protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnerships
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
What you need to do
The governing body surrounding equality and diversity in childcare is the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). They set the standards for childcare providers to follow in order to ensure children grow up in a diverse environment. They cover the first stages of a child's care, right up until they are 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.
The EYFS pushes for an integrated approach to early learning and care by giving professionals a set of common principles and commitments so that they deliver high quality childcare. It is not only the core document for all professionals working in the foundation years to follow, it gives parents the confidence to know that wherever their child ends up, they can be assured that the same statutory commitments and principles are in practice.
In order to comply, you need to implement an effective policy around equality and diversity so that you can support the children in your care. This could be in the case of a child with a learning difficulty, this would be covered under the disability characteristic in the act, and therefore you need to make sure they are receiving the equal opportunities and developing in diverse surroundings that celebrate their differences rather than discriminating against them.
Tips that the EYFS focus on is stressing that professionals need to:
- Interact with children to promote creative thinking skills, this brings on early language and communication development
- Encourage parents to become more involved in their child's development in the home environment
- Identify the needs a child has as early as possible, this way you can create the necessary links with professionals to support them
- Communicate with the parents regularly, offering a summary of their child's progress between 2 and 3 years of age
- Make sure you are keeping the youngest children in mind too.
- To make a judgement at the end of the reception year on how a child learns, this means looking at the characteristics of their learning:
- Active learning
- Creating and thinking critically
- Playing and exploring