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Equality and Diversity in Childcare Reflection

Info: 9563 words (38 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tags: ChildcareReflection

INTRODUCTION

For the purpose of this assignment I will endeavour to complete a learner journal on my research into Equality and Diversity in ECCE settings. Firstly I will hopefully obtain and evaluate research that has already been completed by various governing bodies into children’s and practitioner’s awareness, thinking and behaviour in relation to equality and diversity which will enable me to critically evaluate the topic.

Moving on from there I will endeavour to proof an ECCE curriculum which supports the children’s goals of the anti-bias approach in line with best practice guidelines.  Part of my research will be to lead an audit of the ECCE setting regarding the policies and procedures the environment and materials pertaining to equality and diversity and evaluate it under a number of separate sections.

I will also critically evaluate the importance of having an equality approach in an ECCE setting.  And reflect on my own attitudes, values, beliefs and assumptions and the impact they have in relation to equality and diversity issues when I am working with children, families and team members.

INTRODUCTION TO PLACE OF WORK

I work in a community childcare facility located in the Midlands.  It was set up in 2006 to offer affordable childcare and preschool facilities to the Midlands.  They offer fulltime, part time, sessional care for infants, pre-school age and after school childcare in a state of the art purpose built facility from 7.30am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday for 50 weeks of the year.  The centre offers separate rooms for various ages – Babies aged 3 months to 1 year, Wobblers aged 1 to 2 years, Toddlers aged 2 – 3 years, Pre-School 4-6 years and After school 4-12 years.  Currently there is 79 children in the setting, this consists of children from 13 different countries.

 

RESEARCH REGARDING CHILDREN’S AND PRACTICTIONERS’ AWARENESS, THINKING AND BEHAVIOUR IN RELATION TO EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

In 2008, collaboration between Clare County Childcare Committee and Cork City Childcare created the Pre-school Initiative for Children from Minority Groups which was funded by the Department of Education and Skills, Early Years Education Policy Unit under Dormant Accounts. The aim was to advance the equality and diversity efforts in the early year’s childcare sector in Ireland.

The results of their research enabled them to create training and mentoring systems that would link to the national framework for quality, Aistear and Siolta and to all Equality and Diversity Guidelines for Childcare Providers.

This research once completed linked with Standard 14 of Siolta – Identity and Belonging.  This standard was created using the basis of how children’s behaviour, perceptions and actions towards the world around them is essentially part of how they form their identity.  This socialisation process is what enables a child to be aware of differences between themselves and others around them, such as nationality, religious beliefs, disabilities multicultural families and minority groups. From 9 to 12 months a baby will be able to distinguish an image of themselves from other children of the same age, from toddler to preschool years a child will be influenced by other people they come into contact with. (Siolta.ie, 2018)

Their thinking and behaviour as a result of this can be positive or negative depending on the outside influences.  If a child is being influenced to be disrespectful to another child as they are from a different nationality or religion, then they will continue with this negative behaviour and also apply it to other situations where they come in contact with children who are also different, such as those with physical disabilities or a different colour skin etc.  In the same way this works with a positive nurturing environment where they child it taught the essentials of equality and diversity.

Family unity will always provide a child with their own sense of self, community and has a very powerful effect on their identity.  The same is true for a child when he/she starts in a crèche as the childcare practitioner will share the responsibility and will further influence a child’s sense of self as they teach him/her how to interact, establish and maintain friendships, manage conflict and work as team members.

The childcare practitioner can have even more of an influence on a child than a family member as they are working in larger groups and depending on their own awareness, behaviour and thinking towards equality and diversity can create a very supportive environment that enables all children to grow at their own pace in no matter their diversity to the rest of the group as the practitioner can guide each child under their care to accept themselves and all their class mates not matter the differences.  This can successfully work in most cases, but where some families may have an adverse problem with certain minority groups or behaviours that they expect from their children it will make this very difficult for the practitioner to counteract.  In some cases it may actually hinder the child themselves rather than the other child as, if they are learning in the crèche to accept all their friends and play well together, but in the home environment are influenced by poor attitudes and behaviours the child will become very confused and can lose a valuable part of their own identity as a result.  (Clarechildcare.ie, 2018)

PROOF AN ECCE CURRICULUM WHICH SUPPORTS THE CHILDRENS GOALS OF THE ANTI-BIAS APPROACH IN LINE WITH BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES.

The crèche that I am currently working in follows the Aistear Curriculum.

“Aistear is the curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. It provides information for adults to help them plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences, so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others. Aistear describes the types of learning (dispositions, values and attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding) that are important for children in their early years, and offers ideas and suggestions as to how this learning might be nurtured.”(NCCA, 2009)

The approach towards the promotion of a child’s identity and sense of belonging comes from Aistear’s fourth theme – Identity and Belonging

This theme is based on the ideals that from birth children build their sense of their own identity.  Their relationships with other children, family members, adults and other members of their close community have a vital role in helping them to develop their identity.  Their identity is based on their understanding of themselves and the world around them and their sense of belonging is ensured by having and maintaining secure connections and relationships with a particular group of people both children and adults.  If this sense is nurtured and supported children will feel and grow to have a sense of belonging and will be emotionally strong, self-assured and find themselves able to cope with difficulties and challenges that they come across, this in turn helps to create a strong foundation for future learning and positive development. (Ncca.biz, 2018)

If children are given positive messages of love, respect, approval and encouragement it helps them to have a positive sense of their own identity and a confident feeling that they make an important contribution to their world.  Positive reinforcement of these messages at home and in ECCE settings help them to develop a sense of pride in who they are and also gives them the courage and confidence to voice their opinions and views, help them to make decisions and help them discover their own individual learning style.  (Ncca.biz, 2018)

Adults who nurture and support this development by discovering their own individual attitudes in relation to diversity and equality and realising how their beliefs and attitudes can influence children within their care need to develop self-awareness and the insight and skills to help the children around them to develop a strong sense of belonging and their own identity.  It will also help to show the children that they are valued and respected as an individual and also help them to recognise and cope with prejudice and discrimination.

The promotion of each child’s identity and sense of belonging is a key factor in a quality ECCE setting; Aistear curriculum sets out many guidelines in which to promote this in the setting. These can include having a good partnership between parents and practitioners, as this can divulge much needed information about the child’s family their values and beliefs and certain traditions in which to incorporate into the child’s curriculum layout. This can help greatly when setting up displays around the classroom as to include all children’s diverse backgrounds.  The practitioners where possible must share information about the child to the parents in an informal discussion as much as possible as this will build up a professional relationship between the practitioner and the parent and the child.     (Ncca.biz, 2018)

EXAMPLES OF THEME 4

BABIES

1  Encourage babies to reach for items, clap their hands, point, talk using sounds and gurgles and smile

2 support babies to distinguish themselves from other babies, ie using their names and other names of their family members, getting them to look through photographs and books etc.

3 provide as many opportunities for babies to interact, watch and listen to other babies

4 ensure there are reflective toys, activity cubes and mirrors to encourage them to recognise themselves from their reflection

5 have photos of the babies and their room setting

6 map the babies’ daily routines in the setting using photos and create a portfolio of their paintings and constructions and they learn and grow.

7 encouraging them to identify their body parts by touching, pointing and naming them such as toes, fingers head, ears etc.   (NCCA, 2018)

TODDLERS

1 The care practitioner should observe and play with toddlers, taking account of their needs, rights, wishes and interests.

2 Listen carefully to what the toddler wants to do and say and rephrase new words to help support their speech development in a very positive way

3 Respond and empathise with a toddler when they are afraid, worried or concerned

4 Respect the things that are important to toddlers, such as pets, objects, family etc and try to nurture this interest by talking about or having toys around that support them such as farm animals, diggers, dolls etc

5 Spending one-on-one time with the toddler to help make them feel valued and special within their group.  Playing with them and helping them to complete tasks allowing them to take the lead which allows for plenty of affirmation and interaction.

6 Reading their favourite stories, going for walks and chatting about their surroundings.  Providing and encouraging them to be creative, using play dough, card making, baking, sand art etc.     (NCCA, 2018)

PRE-SCHOOLERS

1 Help to support and encourage children to think about themselves as an individual and find their interests, strengths and abilities

2 help to encourage them to make individual posters about themselves with drawings and photos of their families, homes, toys, favourite activities etc and encourage them to talk about them and tell their peers all about them

3 provide art and creative materials that reflect different skin tones and hair colours etc

4 encourage them to explore their own individual characteristics such as things that make them different from their peers, family, siblings etc

5 chat with the children about their individual interests and strengths such as animals, dancing, sport, singing etc and use drawing and early writing to help them create books about their favourite things such as sports, holidays etc

6 acknowledgement of celebrations such as birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Chinese new year, Ramadan and other festivals. Other acknowledgements of supportive days such as daffodil day, world autism week, downs syndrome week, Special Olympics and talk about the achievements and celebrations of other ethnic and minority groups that they children may not have been exposed to, but are living in our community

7 Help them to develop a sense of responsibility for the place that they live in and how to care for their own personal space, ie keeping their things tidy, helping to tidy up the clothes in the dress-up area, gather up and recycle paper and other items and plant flowers and trees and help to care for them and also pick up litter etc    (NCCA, 2018)

AUDIT OF ECCE SETTING REGARDING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES, ENVIRONMENT AND MATERIALS PERTAINING TO EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

ETHOS

Actual Extract from Crèche Handbook

At (crèche name) we are committed to providing a pre-school service of the highest standard.  We are registered and inspected my Tusla – The Child and Family Agency.

Trained, motivated and friendly staff is the cornerstone of our service.  We encourage a strong teamwork approach to help build and support our shared objectives. (Crèche Name) is committed to equal opportunity in employment.

Crèche Name provides an excellent service for up to 79 children and aims to provide the perfect environment for children to develop their social, personal and educational skills and learn through a planned play based curriculum.

Above all, your child’s welfare and your peace of mind are most important to us.  We provide a warm, loving, home-from-home environment, where each child is treated with respect and will develop and learn as individuals while feeling safe and secure.

(Creche Handbook, 2018)

 

(A) Conditions Found on Audit

Policies and Procedures

Although there is a high volume of children attending the crèche each day, staff here really follows the ethos as set out by management.  Once a child arrives on the premises they are greeted by a friendly face, smiles and welcoming arms.

Proof of Registration with Tusla, policies and procedures and all staff members photos are hung on the entrance hall wall proudly showing a well-run – friendly environment.

The objectives of the crèche of creating a home-from-home environment is taken very seriously as each member of staff knows all children in the building, not just in the room they are working in – ie staff from preschool know all the babies and vice versa, the kitchen staff too are very friendly and know all the children’s names, their individual likes and dislikes and converse with each child as they pass by the kitchen asking them if they would like something different today for dinner etc. as they know that a child doesn’t like a particular type of food, ie non-dairy.  The integration of staff and children really helps to make the child feel at ease and can also aid in settling children in to new rooms as they grow and develop, which helps to alleviate fear of the unknown as they enter a new room.

This helps to comfort the child and also ensures that they feel valued in the entire community of the crèche.  Also the outdoor facilities enable the children to interact with one another freely and in groups as they are encouraged to participate in games and activities along with playing by themselves.

The Environment

Upon auditing the environment using the ethos as a guideline in the preschool room in which I work in I noted a number of factors which were observed and some that were not observed.  These factors are very important in order to obtain a quality setting in which has an inclusive and diverse environment for all children attending the service.

Observed

Multicultural poster with all the different nationalities flags of the different countries from which children attending the service.  This poster was clearly named “Our Community” and it contains flags of 13 countries, Ireland, Poland, Greece, France, Nigeria, Italy, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, Latvia and South Africa.  These flags were painted by the children in the setting as a method of introduction to the different countries in which other children are from.  During this exercise we conversed with the children throughout, talking about the different colours on each flag and symbols on them, the children that are from these countries loved talking about the different colours on the flags.  This poster can help children in the setting understand diversity and enable children from these countries gain a better sense of identity and belonging.

All the children in the setting family photographs are on a display in the classroom.  This enables children to be proud of their family and feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.  During circle time we have conversations about the children’s family’s which enables the practitioner to show the diversity in the classroom and that it is ok to be different.

There are shelves with children’s names on them individually marked in order for the child to place their belongings on and any items they may use throughout the day ie their teddy, snuggle blanket or bottles of juice etc.  This enables a home from home environment which is clearly stated in the ethos.

Although there are many images on the walls entering the building, it could be added to in order to prove the diversity and equality ideals in the crèche, such as images on the doors depicting their meaning rather than just English signs which may be difficult for some to understand.   Images of other children, be it paintings or photos could be placed on the walls showing children from all cultures, abilities, minority groups etc proving that all children are very welcome here regardless of any barriers which may exist.

(Diversity-Equality-and-Inclusion-Charter-and-Guidelines-for-Early-Childhood-Care-Education.pdf)

MATERIALS

There is a dress up area with many different costumes mainly consisting of princess dresses, fire fighter outfits, superhero’s outfits, cartoon costumes and cowboy costumes.  Whilst some of the costumes are directed at boys and some at girls specifically both boys and girls dress up in all of them.  The dress up area could do with pictures and different outfits such as male nurse, girl firefighter and cowgirls etc.  This would give both boys and girls a greater sense of equality and diversity in their future.

There are very little multicultural dolls in the class room, upon researching this could be extended to the many different dolls that are available to buy in order to represent all the children in the setting. These can include dolls with glass’s or hearing aids or dolls in wheelchairs in order to help children understand difference and highlight the fact that it is ok to be different.

https://www.multiculturaltoys4u.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=531_100_107&products_id=2403&zenid=oi1f1t8oirh4to2n3l93j61nk4

(Diversity-Equality-and-Inclusion-Charter-and-Guidelines-for-Early-Childhood-Care-Education.pdf)

Health and Safety

The policies and procedures for health and safety, the same as all policies are available for parents or any authorised personnel, either the posters on the walls or in the office by request.

The extensive health and safety policies are also available in the office and in the perspective rooms so that staff and parents have easy access to the procedures to be used on a daily basis.

Policies and Procedures

Greetings and Departures – available in each room and appropriate paperwork must be completed and signed by both staff and parents/guardians on collection of each child.

Food – HACCP regulations and all food hygiene regulations by the EPO and HSE are strictly adhered to.  Staff is fully trained in child nutrition and dietary needs.  Each room has a variable, well balanced diet available and any changes depending on children’s likes or dislikes, allergies and diet requirements are catered for such as diabetic, coeliac, nut, egg, dairy, vegetarian etc.

Environment

All rooms have gates on all entrances for children’s safety and there are correct ratios of staff to children at all times throughout the day in order to ensure each child’s safety.  Upon entering the room all children are signed in by staff and parents/guardian. Toilets are situated beside room and a staff member monitors children going in and out of toilets at all times.  Departures of children are signed out between staff and parent/guardian.  All communication is done at this point if possible.  Children whom are been collected by parent or guardian with little English language are communicated with a note home as agreed by management with parent/guardian upon commencement of place at setting.  This is to ensure communication is done properly.

Upon commencement of place at setting all children are asked about allergies, food and medication etc.   This is to ensure the children’s health and safety at all times.  If any children have serious allergies this is documented clearly in their file and on a notice in classroom and communicated to all appropriate staff.  All staff are trained on allergies and if children have medication, inhalers or EpiPens etc this is kept in their bags in a safe place which is easily accessible to staff in case of emergency.

There are clearly marked emergency exits in all rooms and all staff are trained on fire drills and other emergency situations that may arise.

 

 

Materials

All policies and procedures are only in English language and this is sometimes a problem if the parents of any children have not got much English language as these policies and procedures are quite long.  Maybe if they were translated to the different languages of parents to keep a copy it would make it easier for parents understand some of the issues raised in these policies and procedures.

 

RELIGION/CULTURAL FACTORS

All our policies and procedures hold an equality and diversity approach, ensuring each child’s religious and cultural backgrounds are taken into consideration.  Our mission statement clearly states that To provide a safe, secure and stimulating environment which embraces all children and values their race, language, gender, age, disability, culture, class and religion”  This ideal continues through our daily activities, meals and general community in the crèche.

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Equality and Diversity Policy

Our Equality and Diversity Policy follows the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991) which states: “It is the States obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights”.

This is apparent in each of the rooms on a day to day basis; children who don’t speak English as their native tongue are given the chance to learn English through interaction with other children and the practitioners, through activities, games and one-on-one interaction.  The practitioners also learn from the children by getting them to teach them words to common items in the room in their native tongue.  Parents are also encouraged to help the practitioners by giving them a list of words that the child uses at home, ie words for bottle, snack, dinner, nap time, play time etc and also include familiar songs during activities which include using different languages, sign language and different versions of nursery rhymes.   Cultural differences are also taken into account by ensuring that national feast days of all children are noted and celebrated, such as Chinese New Year, thanksgiving etc.  Parents are also encouraged to inform the practitioners of any variations in celebrations of birthdays etc such as making Fairy Bread for children from Australia or hanging small presents for all the children in the room as party favours for a birthday party for a Russian child.   (Fayvinova, 2018).

ENVIRONMENT

Even though Ireland is predominantly a Catholic country, we don’t use any religious items in the environment such as crosses or statues in the rooms.  Christmas and Easter are celebrated but not the religious meaning, just the cultural tradition ie Easter bunny bringing eggs and Santa brings toys.  The Christmas concert only has a general festive theme, no religious songs are used and the nativity is never included.  Children enjoy the idea of celebrating together as a community, singing festive songs such as Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells and other festive songs.  Images, paintings and creative items are used in each room to ensure that all children are aware of each celebration ie, Chinese new year, birthdays, traditional days of celebration and reference is made during activities such as, dragon day, pyjama day, green day, jersey day etc.

MATERIALS

The dress up area in each room doesn’t include religious costumes such as the Virgin Mary, Buddha, monks etc.  Flags are hung in each room showing different countries and children are encouraged to colour various flags during activities giving them an awareness of various countries.  The books in each library are non-religious orientated but are generally one culture.  Dolls and other such play items are white and have no physical disabilities and are all feminine.   Certain parents have noted that they are not comfortable with their children playing with toys that are generally considered for the opposite sex, such as boys playing with dolls.  The practitioners discuss this with the parents and try to encourage the parents to allow this as it is our policy that all children are allowed to express their own preferences, but if the parents are insistent the practitioners and management will have meeting with the parents to come to a reasonable agreement on what specific toys the child is allowed play with and is followed accordingly.

RECOMENDATIONS

There are a few things that could be built on in order to enhance the childs experience, such as more images on the walls depicting the meaning of the words for example, an image of a bottle with juice, milk or water so the children can point to what they actually prefer the same could be done for snacks and dinners each day as the children will know what is on the menu and can let the practitioners know if they would like to change it.  In order to help with the celebration of different feast days etc maybe a calendar could be created using images which show the different feast days also which will allow all children to see what is coming up but also interact with the calendar by using stick on images for them to put on as an activity.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS

 

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

The Midland Region is considered to be the third most deprived region in Ireland.  County Laois has a higher level of disadvantaged areas by comparison with the others in the country.  Mountmellick is considered the second most disadvantaged area of the county which shows that there is a very high level of unemployment and lack educational opportunities for adults and children alike.  As our crèche is a community based and funded crèche it is paramount that we ensure that each child within our community has access to the same care and facilities regardless of their social or economic status.  (trusthause.eu, 2018).

Our facility features funding options for families from all socio-economic backgrounds from full or part-time employment fee options:

“ECCE (Free Pre School Year)

The Early Childhood Care & Education Scheme (ECCE) provides one year “free” Pre-school education to every child in Ireland aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 6 months on 1st September each year. The ECCE Scheme was announced by the government in April 2009 and was introduced in January 2010. Parents are able to avail of this ECCE scheme for their children on a 38 week basis from September to June inclusive. The introduction of the “free” Pre-school year is a major development in the area of early childhood education. As a universal scheme, it is hoped that all children will be able to benefit from a Pre-school place in this highly important development year before they commence national school.

 

CETS

The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs OMYCA has introduced a childcare support scheme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) Scheme. The CETS scheme is designed to support the childcare needs of participants in training and educational courses operated by FÁS and Vocational Education Committees (VECs). All additional charges for parents availing of CETS places are detailed in our CETS fees policy drawn up by Sonas and are approved by the local Laois County Childcare.

 

CCS Community Subvention Scheme

Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme is restricted to community/not-for-profit childcare services. The CCS Programme supports disadvantaged parents and provides support for parents in low paid employment and training or education by enabling qualifying parents to avail of reduced childcare costs at participating community childcare services. The fee which a parent will pay will be the cost price of the place as advertised by the service less the relevant subvention amount. If a parent is in receipt of a Social welfare payment and or holds a full medical card or GP only card you are eligible for this scheme. If you meet the above criteria or have any queries please contact the Centre for more details on how to register for the scheme.”    (Mountmellickchildcare.com, 2018)

 

Recommendations

As there are more and more people falling into the poverty trap within the area it would be a good idea for the crèche to inform parents of any new schemes that may be available to them to help with the childcare costs.   Parents should be made aware, through posters, of the various schemes available and encouraged to talk to management of their needs and what they can afford, management can then work with them to ensure they are availing of the correct scheme or indeed if their fees would be easier to afford if they changed to a different scheme.

As it is a community based crèche management keep the costs as low as possible for parents ensuring that parents are given loads of time to save or pay off for day trips if any and the costs are always kept to a minimum.  Extra-curricular entertainment, such as Santa’s visit at Christmas is free to all children in the crèche and their siblings, even if they are not attending the crèche, all children receive a gift from Santa and it is usually run as a fundraiser for a charity such as Temple Street Childrens Hospital etc, this is never any extra cost to parents but buckets are available for parents to give a small donation if they can afford it.

 

ENVIRONMENT AND MATERIALS

The premises are situated in an extremely central location for the town.  This ensures that people can walk to the crèche easily if they don’t have transport.  Primary schools in the locality whose pupils avail of the after school service are provided with a bus service for a low cost to parents.  The building itself does not separate children whose parents are availing of various schemes or full fee paying, or are from minority groups, all children are treated equal regardless of their socio-economic status and have access to the same facilities.  Children who are availing of the Free Pre School programme are given two time slots which are available, the parents can choose which time suits them best on a first come first serve basis.

As there are children from very varying socio economic backgrounds attending the crèche, parents can sometimes find it difficult to supply the suggested items for their child such as wipes, nappies, spare clothing, medications (calpol or nurofen), nappy cream, sun cream, sun hats.  To help alleviate the pressure that this can have we ensure that we have a supply of extra necessities available in each room which can be used.  All meals are available and supplied to each child attending the service, this ensures that each child has had a good nutritious meal each day regardless of their socio economic status.

Practitioners are trained to ensure that all children are included equally in each room and look out for children who may become segregated due to their socio economic status, ie children who attend the crèche who may not be wearing up to date or well-fitting clothing.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Children who live outside walking distance whose parents don’t have transport may find it difficult to attend the crèche, therefore a transport service at a reduced rate or free if possible could be made available for them in order to ensure they can fully attend the crèche.

In order to help alleviate the pressure on parents for clothing each day, maybe a plain dress code could be introduced, such as jog pants and polo shirt for the children to wear, which will further enhance the ideal that every child is equal regardless of their culture, religion or socio economic status.

SEN FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO THE EXCLUSION OF A CHILD

Policies and Procedures

INCLUSION OF CHILDREN WITH ADDITIONAL NEEDS

Our policy ensures that all children are treated equally regardless of their status; this includes intellectual and physical disabilities.  As diagnosing some intellectual disabilities is a very grey and sensitive area and most children are not diagnosed until approximately the age of 3 it can be difficult for some children to progress at the same level as their peers.  Children who may potentially have an intellectual disability may have certain traits that are apparent from an early age, ie sensory processing problems such as touching cold materials, loud noises etc.  Legislation prohibits practitioners from voicing their opinion on a child’s intellectual status, but if certain things are noted such as an aversion to a certain texture, every effort is made to ensure the child is not exposed to it during their daily activities, but a suitable replacement is made to the activity to ensure there is no stress on the child which also could lead to the child being excluded from the activity or by other children.  Practitioners who are approached by parents with their concerns are advised to contact management regarding their child’s potential intellectual disability and management will advise them of how to go about getting their child assessed for a potential condition.

For children who have a diagnosis of a particular intellectual disability such as autistic spectrum disorder, parents are encouraged to advise practitioners of their diagnosis and every effort is made to make supports available to the child, this can help to counter act any possible behavioural problems that may arise which can exclude the child from certain activities or be excluded by their peers.

ENVIRONMENT

The building is wheelchair accessible with low level access to the room, wide doors, lift and wheelchair accessible toilets are available.  Each room is adequately sized to accommodate a wheelchair and the outdoor play area is also wheelchair accessible.

Furniture in each room is low for children to sit on but an appropriate height table and other supports can be made available for wheelchair users.  Children who may be deaf or blind are provided with a support worker who ensures both their safety and inclusion the all activities, such as being trained in Lamh (Irish Sign Language).

RECOMMENDATIONS

Even though every effort is made to accommodate children with both physical and intellectual disabilities, a hoist could be made available particularly in the preschool room to aid the child using the toilets or changing facilities.

Low level buttons for entering the facility and each room could be installed to enable wheelchair user’s easier access to the room, to exit each room they are not a viable option as other children could use them and be able to leave the room.

There is no facility for children with sensory issues such as a sensory room to support their needs this would be a very valuable addition as children with sensory issues can be excluded due to their reactions to certain activities, behavioural changes or generally needing a break from the room they are in and any reproductions can lead to their peers excluding them.

MATERIALS

There is only one set of headphones available for children if they are unable to read due to blindness or intellectual ability.  This enables them to follow the stories easily and be able to interact with their peers when discussing the stories.  At present there are no children with special educational needs in the crèche, but if we have any new children starting that have any specific needs we could supply some supports or parents can bring in any necessary items.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The PECS (picture exchange communication system) system could easily be introduced and readily available for practitioners to use if necessary.  As the PECS system can be customised for each individual or just general user it could be a help for both children and adults with special educational needs entering the crèche and also people with little spoken English as the images are self-explanatory and little or no training is needed.

Persona Dolls could be used in order to help other children integrate and treat all children with respect.  Children who have special educational needs are vulnerable and can be segregated by other children for many various reasons, but using persona dolls the practitioner can explain and show children how upset it can make others feel when they are not being treated fairly or being segregated, it helps to show children how to include everyone as we are all equal and how to be aware of their actions and behaviour and ensure that they have the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure that any child with special educational needs is not left out of activities or general interactions.  (Nurseryworld.co.uk, 2018)

4. Critical evaluation of the importance of having an equality approach in an ECCE setting.

As Ireland is a member of the European Union, we are fully legislated to follow all rules and regulations that all member states have to follow.   In 2000 the EU created the Charter of Fundamental Rights which amalgamated all of the rights protected by EU law in one single document and was brought in to force with the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.  Article 24 of the Charter solely protects the rights of children; this ensures that all children can fully enjoy their rights as individuals.  (Dcya.gov.ie, 2018)

The Charter is made up of four key rights principles which are taken from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

1 best interest’s principle

2 the voice of the child principle

3 The right to protection principle

4 the right to maintain a personal relationship with his or her parents

In childcare settings 2 of these principles are most used in order to ensure that each child is given access and the opportunity to develop and grow and individuals within their community. (childrensrights.ie, 2018)

The Right to Protection and Care Principle

The Article also provides for the rights of a child to receive the care and protection necessary for his or her well-being and development.  This is taken from Article 3(2) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  This ensures that children are respected and protected at all times which protect their inherent dignity and worth.

Following the guidelines of both Article 4 of the EU Charter and Article 3(2) of the UN Convention it is apparent how this enables a child’s sense of identity and sense of belonging can be upheld, respected and developed in a childcare setting.  Each child is cared for as an individual regardless of their race, culture, religious beliefs or need for special educational supports.  Practitioners following Siolta’s Standards have specific instructions on how to enforce the laws and expectations of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs but also with Aistear have the appropriate curriculum available to enable them to use activities which encompass all cultures, religions, race and need for special educational supports or disabilities that ensure that each child is cared for equally and enable them to develop in line with their own individual needs.

The Best Interests Principle

Article 24 outlines how the best interests of each child should be of utmost importance and consideration in all aspects concerning the child in both private and public circles this includes the child’s education, health, asylum-seeking and refugee procedures as well as immigration, housing, budgetary allocations and policy making.

The education section of this article in particular is the part of the root of principles for Childcare settings and as such ensures that it is prohibited to discriminate against a child on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, membership of majority or minority groups, genetic features, language, religion belief, political or other opinion, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Children from Minority groups and their families in particular can find it difficult for many reasons, cultural, religious, financial etc to integrate into a community.  The protection of the EU Charter ensures that children from these minority groups will not be excluded from any public or private facilities, services or supports.  Childcare practitioners can ensure that these children and their families are supported in every way possible, following their traditions and culture or general instructions from their parents, for example children from minority groups will not be separated from their peers in each room, they will be included in all activities and activities will be modified or created to ensure that all children will be educated to the beliefs and culture of the minority groups to ensure that they are not segregated from the community of the childcare facility and also help the families of children from minority groups enabling them to seek work and integrate more easily into the entire community as they will get to know other parents of children who attend the crèche.

Children from majority groups and their families are given the same respect and treatment as all children.  They have full access to care and financial supports without bias.  The children and families of majority groups will greatly benefit from the addition and integration with minority groups as they will learn of the different cultures, beliefs and traditions which in turn will help to alleviate any potential for discrimination of minority groups.  This benefits the wider community as a whole and helps people to become more socially integrated, the ideals of educating children of the equality of all children within our diverse community ensures that there will be no discrimination or segregation in the wider community.  (It’s your right, 2018)

American preschool teacher and international researcher Louise Derman-Sparks has become one of the forerunners in equality and diversity policies.  Her work and research on the effects of successful equality and diversity policies within childcare settings has helped to guide all countries in creating policies on equality and diversity within ECCE settings.  In particular her work on Strategies for Embedding Anti-bias Education into Daily Programming creates an environment for children to develop both individually and as groups.

Her creation of Anti-bias education goals encompasses the Identity of each child with enables them to demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social/group identities.  The Diversity of each child in that they will be able to express joy and comfort in human diversity, using accurate language for differences and caring for human connections.  It also teaches each child to be able to recognise unfairness and have the language capabilities to describe unfairness and understand that it hurts and affects other children.  The education of the child on equality and diversity gives them a sense of empowerment and the skills to act as an individual or as a group to work against prejudice or discrimination. (antibiasleadership.com, 2018).

Following her guidelines and ideals it is apparent that using simple strategies for equality and diversity within ECCE settings can greatly enhance the experience of the child and also improve their development as an individual enabling them to be a fully functioning member of their community.

5   Reflection on own attitudes, values, beliefs and assumptions and their impact in relation to equality and diversity issues when working with children, families and team members.

Are aware that the language you use affects children and adults you interact with

Language is not just been able to talk it is how we communicate.  Been able to communicate appropriately in the setting is key in order to build up a relationship with all children individually.  As a childcare practitioner I am always very aware that the communication I use affects the children and adults I interact with.  In everyday tasks this is important in order to maintain a quality setting in which each child can flourish to the best of their abilities.  With the diverse number of children in the setting from different countries, cultures, religions, languages and special educational needs this is paramount in order to give each child and their families a quality care and understanding.

Skinner 1957 was one of the earliest theorists of language acquisition in which he believed that language development was by means of environmental influence. (Simplypsychology.org, 2017) Using his theory as a clear guideline it is crucial that I am constantly aware of the language I use for every child in the setting.

Children express their thoughts, feelings and ideas through communication, whether it be verbal or non-verbal.  When a child has difficulties communicating there may be many challenges to overcome for the child themselves, their families, their education team and their peers.

The child themselves may have difficulty understanding others or others understanding them, this may lead to feelings of frustration for the child and may manifest into behaviour problems.

In order for the child to be supported emotionally, socially intellectually and physically it is important that communication difficulties are monitored, nurtured and developed in every way possible.  This is done by working out strategies that may best work for the child involved in order for them to overcome these communication difficulties.  The multi-disciplinary team along with the child will be involved in working and figuring out these strategies that can best help these issues.

For verbal communication difficulties such as hearing difficulties, speech disorders – stammer, Tourette syndrome etc – there are many challenges, but these can be overcome easily as there are many supports and strategies available such as flash cards, drawing pictures,– which help to support the child with both learning and developing their communication skills.  As a Special Needs Assistant working with a child with verbal communication difficulties having excellent active listening skills is one of the best tools to have as if a child feels they are being heard and listened to they are more likely to try again and again to communicate with the adult and in turn improves their communication skills with their peers.  Encouraging children by positive reinforcement of their successes with communication builds confidence and helps to alleviate frustration and behavioural problems – such as acting out aggressively or withdrawal from social contact.

Children with non-verbal communication difficulties such as, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice can present as a larger challenge for everyone involved and the child themselves.  There are many different approaches to each type of difficulty from medical to educational depending on the individual and the severity of their diagnosis.  Using Sign language, assistive technologies and behavioural and speech therapies some of these can be overcome.  As a childcare practitioner it is imperative to fully understand the individual and the strategy that is needed, following all guidelines for educational and behavioural therapies such as sign language for auditory difficulties, functional communication training for behavioural difficulties and assistive technology and augmentative communication devices in order to be able to encourage the child to learn to communicate positively and confidently without becoming frustrated and feeling as though they are not being heard.

Communication is what allows people to connect with each other, express themselves and helps to increase their sense of belonging.  There are two types :- verbal and non-verbal and the most prominent is non-verbal given that 90% of our communication is through non-verbal expressions whether it be through facial expressions, body language , gestures, paralinguistics, proxemics, eye gaze and haptics we communicate without having to verbalise our thoughts or emotions.

Facial Expressions, such as a smile, can make us seem more open and approachable even before a person will try to communicate with us, whereas people would be less likely to try communicate if we have a frown or an angry expression.  When working with children in particular it is very important to always seem approachable and friendly as this gives them more confidence to communicate with you and also helps them learn to become more approachable in return.

Body Language and gestures, such as having your arms folded can give the impression that you do not want to communicate and also discourage people from trying to communicate with you.  Even when we are speaking our body language tells various stories, such as shifting from one foot to another or looking around can make us seem less attentive and uninterested in the person who is communicating with us.  When working with children this is very important as children read body language before they begin to communicate with us and it can lead to them shying away or feeling unheard if we seem disinterested in what they want to say, leaving them feeling unconfident and unwilling to try again.

Paralinguistics such as tone or pitch of voice is very important as the wrong message can be portrayed if we sound bored, angry, sad or happy when speaking without using the actual words.  Children in particular are very susceptible to the tone of our voices and if they think that we are angry or bored they will be less likely to try communicate with us whereas if we are upbeat and happy in our tone they will try again and again as the positive feeling they receive helps them gain confidence.

Proxemics, eye gaze and haptics can be one of the most important communication techniques especially with children as if they feel their personal space is being invaded they can get quite uncomfortable and this will inhibit their communication with you, holding eye contact for some children is impossible and the person who is not aware of this can become impatient with the child causing them to regress and not try communicate in other ways.

Visual supports aids/help for all children in the setting, but children with certain difficulties such as: down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, language disorders and delays, hearing impairment, developmental delay, oppositional defiant disorder, English as a second language and learning difficulties.  It has been proven that the use of many visual aids will help children with listening and attending, understanding and responding, processing sequenced information, motivation and play, following instructions and routines, anxiety and resistance to change, social isolation and shyness and challenging behaviour.

Understand how important a family centred approach is

Are sensitive to socio-economic issues affecting children and their families within the ECCE setting

Are sensitive to cultural issues affecting children and their families within the ECCE setting

 

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