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This essay focuses on Inclusive and Diverse Issues in Education. With reference to a Professional Practice in a Pre-school setting in Ireland, it reflects on the setting and identifies the gaps in the setting's policies and procedures whilst making suggestions on how they can be rectified. The Playschool setting is analysed, focusing on how staff follow the policies and procedures to ensure positive understanding and regard for the identity and rights of others through the provision of an appropriate environment, experiences and interactions with the setting.
Childhood Education Inclusive Diverse Playschool
Inclusive and Diverse Issues in Education
This essay focuses on inclusive and diverse issues in Pre-school education in Ireland. Reflections are given on my current practice and recommendations are made on how to rectify gaps in the setting's policies and procedures with suggestions for improvement.
There are a number of organisations that have had an impact on early childhood education, especially on practice and policy. One of them is the Irish Pre-School playgroups Association that 'emphasises the importance of play in early child development and aims to provide a rich environment in which children can meet and play' (Hayes, 2005). Another factor that has had an influence on development of early childhood education in Ireland as the legislative development act that has affected the children's life is the Child Care Act (1991).
Growing number of working parents in Ireland has increased the need for childcare facilities. This essay focuses on a Pre-school sessional playschool. The playschool offers a planned programme consisting of up to 3.5 hours per session, either morning or afternoon. Children aged between two and six are being catered for. Law defines pre-school in children in Ireland as 'children under 6 years of age, who are not attending a national school or equivalent'.
The learning environment of the playschool is based on the Pre-school Creative Curriculum; Teaching Strategies Inc has developed this curriculum. The playschool setting emphasises the role of supportive teaching that then aids children to achieve academic excellence. The curriculum allows for the child to make choice-based and self-directed play. What's more children are also encouraged to play in small groups. Furthermore, emphasis is placed on, mathematical reasoning, scientific thought and development of language. A typical day at the playschool for the child consists of the children making guided choices using Choice boards (these are organisers that contain a variety of activities) and self-directed choices, participating in small groups and projects, joining in with the whole group, and documenting their learning experiences. Building blocks of healthy development form critical learning experiences for the children.
All pre-school settings include policies and procedures, which staff have to adhere to at all times. Policies lay out the key principles that inform and guide work and procedures give the details of the steps that must be followed. The policies and procedures document has been developed with input from staff members. However, not all staff have been involved which needs to be addressed. The involvement in input promotes a sense of ownership and commitment. Staff who have participated in the process are less likely to express dissatisfaction with the Policies and Procedures. Furthermore, it is good practice to include parents in the overall management of the playschool especially for the purpose of compilation of the Policies and Procedures. As the end user, with a slightly different perspective on the appropriateness of the service, parents are in a position to challenge and contribute in terms of how policies may affect their children.
Professional development is very important in any kind of educational setting. An early years setting focuses on good practice and is to be ready to extend your learning. The playschool has good practice however further professional development can be gained in different ways. Learning from each other is a very good way build up the professional development of staff. Staff should be more ready to ask as well express appreciation for guidance from their colleagues and should offer ideas an experience in return. More flexibility within their roles should be encouraged to ensure that all team members add to respect
The playschool aims to provide an environment where all children are taught to respect other people, their environment and most importantly, themselves. This playschool has a Pre-school leader who has an overall duty for matters that concern behaviour. Her job is to keep herself abreast of issues on how to handle children's behaviour, legislation and research. In addition to that she also has to check if all staff are up-to-date with training on handling children's behaviour. She makes sure of it by keeping account of staff attendance at the training. Serious misbehaviour, for example, racial abuse, is dealt with immediately. Children are not blamed for their behaviour; instead they are given explanations in order to rectify the problem and to avoid further severe behavioural issues. Staff in their good treatment provides a positive mode of behaviour, friendliness and care to children. Good behaviour is always praised.
The ideal period for language development is the early years. Hickey (1997), stresses the importance of language development not only by a child's receptiveness to a second child but also to first language acquisition. Over the years in Ireland, there has been an increasing demand for children in the early years sector, learning through the medium of Irish. Despite this, playschools providing Irish education are faced with many challenges. A number of factors are the language ability of the trainees, equipment, resources, training and also the diverse range of abilities o the children attending the setting.
Cultural understanding is very important in all settings. The community within the setting provides another cultural context. The perspectives of parents, children and teachers influence this. Among the many divisions that may exist are those relating to ethnicity, language, religion, social class, gender, sexuality and the political or personal values. The existence of such cultural diversity is important in any pre-school setting and reflective teachers are likely to explore the relationship between cultures and young people's homes, communities and school very carefully indeed (Vincent, 2000).
A great deal of research has shown problems arising when working-class cultures are regarded as being deficient by those in schools (King 1978; Lareau, 1989). Similarly, institutionalised forms of racism are likely to result if teachers fail to take appropriate account of the perspectives of ethnic groups (Epstein, 1993; Troyna and Hatcher, 1992). Stereotypical perceptions of teachers may also have gender or sexuality dimensions that could impinge different ways on the educational opportunities of both girls and boys (Thorne, 1993). Again the limelight goes on the good practice on policies and procedures that have been set out.
Another factor that should be focused on is the employment of staff that shares the similar minority groups to children. Policy management and staff should discuss how bias could arise in all stages of recruitment procedure and how stereotyping can influence attitudes about people's abilities to perform jobs. The benefits of diversity within the team should be addressed. For example, when children from working class backgrounds, minority ethnic children, Traveller children, or those with a disability see adults from their background in a position of leadership, they get the message that people from their community can and do succeed.
The playschool has written records of policies and procedures which are adhered to at all times. However these documents can be improved with several amendments made in relation to professional development and the provision of resources for language development, for example, equipment, training and language profiency of the staff. Furthermore there is need for improvement in terms of further professional development, which needs to be carried out to ensure that all policies and procedures within the setting relate to the promotion of positive identities and belonging in the child's best interests. Further training and courses for early years practitioners should be taken to fully understand Inclusion and Diversity within the practice.
Furthermore the playschool does have a diverse and equal approach, which ensures that all children feel a sense of belonging. Practitioners listen to and observe children's play and adult interactions in order to identify bias and discrimination. They then develop methods to issues that may arise. Children are valued and supported which leads to better learning. The policies on anti-discrimination ensure that all children are treated equally regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or ability. The anti-bias policy addresses, racism, discrimination, prejudice, bias, and stereotyping, while promoting equality of access, involvement, participation and outcome for all.
However, In conclusion, it is worth remembering that the rising interest of early childhood services in Ireland over the last decades reflects the changes in the Irish society as well as the importance of early years for the state that established pre-schools and other services for children. In contemporary Ireland early childhood education is understood as education and care for children aged 0-6 years of age. Even though there were no early definitions of 'early childhood education'. However, the Report of the Expert Working Group on Childcare defines childcare as:
'...day care facilities and services for pre-school children and school going children out-of-school hours. It includes services offering care, education and socialisation opportunities for children to the benefit of children, parents, employers and the wider community. Thus, services such as pre-schools, naionrai [Irish language pre-schools], day care services, crèches, play groups, child minding and after-school groups are included, but schools (primary, secondary and special) and residential centres for children are excluded'. (Government of Ireland, 1999b).
Furthermore, summarising the above thoughts, early childhood care and education has seen development and improvement in recent years. However, key challenges remain in many areas such as the improvement of quality services. Early Childhood settings should be funded from The Department of Education and Science or attract the funding from additional sources, so every child could attend to different types of settings.