E is for Equity – The ABC of Early Years Education
Equity in the early years isn’t about treating children the same, it’s all about giving each individual child what they need.
A group of children in a nursery can all be the same age, but they will each have differing needs when it comes to their development – they are all unique and their learning environment needs to reflect this.
It’s the job of early years educators to learn about the children in their care – taking heritage, family life, culture, and experiences into account, to best support their development.
Child-centred, inclusive practice means thinking about how we help children to find out who they are and their capabilities – all of which will affect how and what they learn. It’s vital to think about how you support and guide children to be themselves, value their contributions, and reflect on how you’re meeting each child’s needs.
Crucially, if we’re going to help children and accept they’re unique, we have to provide opportunities and a respectful environment in which they can develop a sense of identity, autonomy, and self-discipline.
It’s important to mention unconscious bias here, too.
As children begin to understand their own identities, they begin to recognise the values society places on different things.
At nine months old, children have an instinct for people that are familiar and at two years old, they have already started putting themselves into groups.
We’re all biased at times, but what’s important is that we reflect on the different types of bias – affinity, confirmation, or attribution – as they affect the judgements we make about children, their families, and their abilities.
If we’re conscious about being biased, it helps us to address it and also challenge other people’s behaviour, openly and respectfully. We need to examine our planning and observations and ensure that what we’re doing is based on evidence. This helps to create a workplace culture where diversity and inclusion are true values.
If we’re going to give children what they need, we can only do this by watching and understanding them and linking this back to their families, while not forgetting to reflect on ourselves too.