Friday, 30 October 2015

What is Inclusion and why is it so important in the Early Years?

Anne Purdon
Curriculum Leader 

What is inclusion? This is the question we will be posing to our second year students, Set 38, when they return to college after half term. Our second years have been spending the first half of this semester in placement and they will have been working with children from a diverse range of backgrounds of different ages and abilities. As early years practitioners it is vital that our students consider how they can support all children to achieve their potential and how they can help to remove any barriers that might exist to their learning and development.

But what does it really mean to value diversity and promote equal opportunities for all? Aristotle said that ‘‘There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” Inclusion, according to Rodgers &Wilmot (2011, p2) ‘… is the process by which we value all individuals, recognising their unique attributes, qualities and ways of being.’

When we work with children we must never assume they are all the same and treat them as such. In order to value diversity and promote equal opportunities we need to value each child equally but treat them differently according to their needs. We need to get to know each individual child so well that we can respond to their individual needs and treat them in the unique way in which they as individuals can thrive.

It is important that our students take on board the fact that inclusion is a right, not a luxury as underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Every Disabled Child Matters Inclusion Charter 2015.**

As we continue with the lectures for this module we will be discovering how we can ensure every child is included. A fundamental building block for inclusion is showing respect; this involves recognising that each family we work with has a different set of beliefs and values. By allowing children to make their own choices and respecting those choices we can raise their self-esteem in the knowledge that secure emotional development is vital for a child’s learning and development. We know that’s true for adults too don’t we? When we feel good about ourselves, when we feel valued in what we are doing, we can achieve so much more.

**The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 requires us to adopt an inclusive approach; for example Article 2 states that ‘Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.’ (UNICEF,1989). In addition The Every Disabled Child Matters Inclusion Charter states that ‘All children have the right to be included in every aspect of society. Disabled children should not have to ask or fight to be included in the things that other children do.’ (EDCM, 2015)