News - Equality and Inclusion
A nursery in Broughty Ferry, Scotland has recently been accused of discrimination by Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf. He reported the Little Scholars nursery after he suspected them of turning away his daughter’s application due to her Muslim heritage.
He claimed that, while his application to join the nursery was rejected due to ‘no availability’, his (non-Muslim) friends went on to make successful applications to the same nursery, despite them previously claiming to be full. He believes this is because the children of his friends and family have traditionally ‘white-sounding’ names in comparison to his daughter, Amal.
The nursery has strongly rejected the claim, explaining they frequently welcome families of all backgrounds and cultures and adding that the owners are of Asian descent. Yousaf then stated that “up to three Muslim families had been rejected from the same nursery.” BBC News
Equality and inclusion are key characteristics that all early years settings must demonstrate. Having the accusation of being discriminatory would be incredibly detrimental to any nursery, whether this is aimed towards families, children or staff. Providers must ensure they are welcoming and treat all individuals fairly, setting an example for the children in their care.
In an attempt to be truly inclusive, early years settings should consider the following areas:
- Welcoming families
- Recruitment and equal opportunities
- Embracing cultures and diversity
- Accessibility and resources
All of these areas are covered in detail in TNL's model "Diversity & Inclusion Policy" - you can create a bespoke version of this policy for your setting in just a few minutes via the Premium Resources Store.
All prospective families must be subject to equal treatment. They should be initially greeted in a warm and welcoming manner with managers and staff happy to answer any questions they have. Families with English as a second language should be given time to express themselves and treated with respect and patience.
Settings should be transparent with relevant information offering the same, valid information to any families wishing to attend their setting; for example, up to date prices, availability and invites to viewings. Once in the setting attending a viewing, all families should be given the same tour and information, allowing them to make fair assessments of the setting so they are able to determine if it is the right fit for both them and their child.
An even representation of the local community should be present in the setting, including families eligible for EYPP, children with SEND and diverse families and staff.
Recruitment and Equal Opportunities
Staff should also be privy to the same, fair hiring processes. From creating the job advert to executing interviews, providers need to treat recruits neutrally, being careful not to form any preconceptions or assumptions about anyone.
Candidates should be given equal opportunities regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or abilities and must not be judged on appearances. Applicants should also not be discriminated against based on qualifications; they may hold a lower qualification than desired but may demonstrate ample knowledge, skill and capacity to work towards said qualification.
Once hired, all staff must be managed consistently, being paid fairly based on age and experience and exposed to the same equal opportunities throughout their employment.
Chapter 6 of TNL's Ultimate Guide to Early Years Recruitment explores the issues of diversity and representation in recruitment in lots more detail, along with a range of tools and templates to help you implement a truly open and fair hiring process for your organisation - take a look for yourself in the Premium Resources Store.
Embracing Cultures and Diversity
Every setting should openly embrace all cultures and religions. This can be done in a number of ways; celebrating a vast range of annual events with children promotes respect and educates them about different cultures and traditions around the world.
Having resources available from a variety of countries allows children to freely explore an interesting selection of items such as toys, books, clothing, instruments and animals. Learning words in other languages and having them displayed around the building shows parents and carers that the setting welcomes all backgrounds. Teaching children simple words in other languages (such as hello or thank you) not only expands their language and knowledge but recognises and actively incorporates other cultures.
Children should also be supported in recognising and admiring what makes them unique as individuals. Practitioners can encourage this by having discussions and planning activities based on home life, community and personal characteristics, helping all children feel valued and respected.
Accessibility and Resources
Early years providers should reflect on the physical setting itself. Considering the ease of access in different areas and what types of resources are freely available to all, regardless of disabilities, SEND or any other additional needs. Parents with physical disabilities should also be acknowledged, offering alternative ways for them to view and access the setting.
All children should have access to the garden, all designated areas of classrooms and the toilets (if toileting independently). Toys should exhibit children’s interests and be placed in appropriate ways, allowing all to access them when desired; for example, if a child is in a wheelchair, items should be within their reach.
Practitioners should also evaluate their activities, ensuring all children are included in the same learning opportunities, adapting their teaching methods to cater for different levels of abilities.
Equality and inclusion are key characteristics that all early years settings must demonstrate and providers must ensure they are welcoming and treat all individuals fairly, setting an example for the children in their care. If what Humza Yousaf claims is true, and Little Scholars have behaved discriminatorily, how do you think they should respond? Biases can be conscious or unconscious, and spotting our own prejudices is an uncomfortable and difficult process to go through - do you feel confident that you are aware of your own biases?