As you may know, learning about a diverse world is now a vital part of the EYFS Framework and the fundamental British values are embedded within the National Curriculum. The fundamental British values are: Democracy, Rule of law, Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect and Tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs. I know it can sound a lot, especially for those of us working with under 5s, but it's important to note that we can make often comparatively small and easy steps towards making our activities more inclusive. Although we are not bound by the framework for education settings, we have a responsibility as activity providers to implement these values in our provision for parents and children.
Gov.uk (Help for Early Years Providers) describes diversity as "Differences in age, culture, family structures, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Understanding of a diverse world also includes understanding technological and ecological diversity."
The EYFS Statutory Framework begins with the duties placed on all who work with the children: the link between equality, anti-discrimination and how to promote the Fundamental Values is established at the outset. “Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential”. It states that the EYFS seeks to provide: “Equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported.”
I’m not an expert in this area at all, however after discovering last year that I am neuro divergent and receiving a late in life diagnosis of ADHD, I’ve reflected on the importance of doing our utmost to make our provision as diverse and inclusive as possible to all types of learners. It really is vital to help every single child feel valued and included with a real sense of belonging. With your help I want to open up an opportunity for sharing our experiences - not just as activity providers, but as users of this sector ourselves. Do we always feel our needs, those of our children and other family members are being well met? Are there times when things could have gone better? I want this to be an area for development and learning through all our collective groups.
Knowing so many of my brilliant fellow kids activity providers in our sector, I have no doubt at all that there are a great many examples of good and innovative practice going on out there in areas such as:
• accessible venues and facilities
• themed and targeted marketing, promotions and advertising celebrating different ethnicities, cultures, religious celebrations etc
• incorporating a diverse range of music and dance in classes to reflect different cultures
• use of non-gender specific language and avoidance of gender stereotyping
• linking activity to religious celebrations such as Diwali, Hanukkah etc
• promotion of specific days promoting inclusion e.g. International Women’s Day
• sessions designed around SEND with e.g. smaller sized groups, calmer, quieter, use of dimmer lighting etc
• awareness of when a child may be exhibiting ‘overwhelm’ and what could help. Recognising that neurodivergence can present differently in boys and girls
• use of sign language or Makaton
• Communication with parents & carers - both in terms of marketing materials, websites etc promoting inclusivity and encouraging enquiries, but also as individuals -putting parents’ knowledge front and centre in what adaptations may make an activity more accessible and enjoyable for their child
• communication and partnership working with appropriate local authorities depts for advice and to access possible resources to assist with widest possible provision adapting resources and sessions to accommodate allergies, differing physical and sensory capabilities etc
Here at Little Learners, franchisees have been sending me information on how they have made adjustments for children with different learning abilities which have worked well, from accommodating a child with ASD who starts and finishes a class 15minutes later, to running fully adapted SEN-specific sessions once a month and working in a SEND specialist school to provide bespoke sessions. In addition to this there are also lots of small (but SO valuable!) modifications happening (smaller class sizes, sensory play, lowering music etc).
I’ve no doubt that you could share numerous examples - big and small - which could provide food for thought for your fellow practitioners working in our sector. We simply MUST get better at speaking up about the work that’s happening. More awareness of Diversity, Equity &Inclusion and sharing of ideas and what worked well - or not so well - is going to be essential as we move forward. I absolutely KNOW we are all passionate about our work and facilitating as many children as possible experiencing what we have to offer in a supportive, equitable environment. Getting the information of what we can do out there is critical though and the more we publicise the things - whether small or quite significant - that we have (and can) do, the more parents and carers will realise that opportunities they perhaps assumed unavailable or unsuitable for their child are actually out there waiting for them!
Please can I ask that you let me know via DM on Instagram @theadhdfranchisor or email firstname.lastname@example.org with what steps you’ve been taking so we can assemble and collate ideas, activities and good practice across our sector?
And also…..PLEASE consider entering your business into the new Diversity & Inclusion Award category this year! Parents who might have felt that their child wouldn’t be able to access activities could get to see the work being done to make sure they can be included, supported and valued. It’s an opportunity to showcase the work you’re doing in your business and potentially open a dialogue with parents about their child’s needs and how they can be met. You don’t have to be the ultimate authority in Diversity & Inclusion to enter - none of us are - we are ALL learning! You simply need to describe the adaptations and modifications you are making to your activity to make it as accessible and inclusive as possible. This area is SO important to our sector and to making children feel they are valued and that they belong - let’s give it the prominence it deserves!
CEO & Franchisor at Little Learners UK & Little Messy Learners Australia