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The experiences and outcomes that children receive in their earliest years can lay the foundations for their journey into adult life and beyond. Legislation has been put in place to ensure that children are given the best possible start in life and that they are given the opportunities for them to reach their full potential. Regardless of their individual needs and backgrounds of race, disability or social status, legislation ensures that they all have the same opportunities in order for them to have a good quality of life in early childhood. In addition, children have a right to be part of their community setting and develop their own individual identity.
A child's social class is a major factor in the life chances and the outcomes they are likely to receive in later life. The Equality Act 2010 aims to narrow the gap between social classes, tackles barriers that are holding children back and gives everyone the opportunity to achieve their full potential and contribute in their own way to society.
Children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to suffer behaviour and language problems than those from more affluent areas. Furthermore, children from affluent areas are more academically ready to start early education by the age of three years old than those from poorer areas. (Source: Elizabeth Washbrook, Bristol University based on the Millennium Cohort Study) Millennium Cohort Study, Exploration of Some Distinctive Results for Scotland
These statistics show the need for early years' settings to provide efficient and adequate provision for all children. Child centred settings must ensure that they are fully aware of the content of relevant legislation regarding equality and inclusion that enables children to get the best possible start and get efficient learning that meets their needs in order for them to flourish.
A nursery Admission policy ensures that the allocation of nursery places is fair and equal and that there is no discrimination in relation to a child's socio-economic background with regards of where they live or parent's occupational backgrounds, stops discrimination against non-admittance of a child with any disabilities or additional needs and shows no favouritism towards admissions of children with high academic level and educational attainment. This policy ensures equality for all and that places are free to all children.
Settings that promote equality and inclusion are stating that they recognise and uphold children's rights and will actively contribute to the children's quality of life. Equal opportunities ensure all children are treated according to their individual needs.
"We want an education system in Scotland that is inclusive of all pupils, encouraging young people to develop, no matter what additional needs they may have".
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 & 2009 provides the framework of guidance for the support that all children should receive in order for them to make full use of their abilities within their education. Practitioners must ensure arrangements are in place to identify any additional needs and the learning required, and this can be done by getting to know the child and their background and put the child at the centre.
Building good relationships with children and their families will encourage the child to feel safe and develop a sense of belonging. By getting to know as much as possible about the child, practitioners can plan experiences that suit the child's knowledge, experience, age and stage of development and build on these to extend the child's knowledge and learning.
North Lanarkshire Council's Inclusive Policy suggests that Personal Learning Plans, Individual Education Programmes and Records of Needs are important for a child's effective learning and through assessment and planning, will provide the foundation to ensuring the individual needs of the child are recognised and met.
However, when a support plan is considered necessary, settings must take account of views from other people like parents/carers and additional adults within the setting who assist with supporting inclusion and diversity. Some of these include head teachers, Speech and Language and behaviour therapists and Additional Support Needs Assistants.
This partnership will ensure close links are maintained between multi-agencies, support services and the child's family and will help to provide opportunities to share information and make decisions about the best way to meet a child's individual needs. Good inclusive settings can ensure that a child is looked after, despite their individual needs and backgrounds, and enable them to get the best out of their education. http://www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5642
In addition, practitioners and educators should effectively practice equality for all and be aware of their own attitudes of stereotyping and discriminating against issues of race, disability, sex, social status, age and religion and be positive role models in their responsibilities to promoting equality and inclusion in their setting.
Every Child Matters
Framework for Inclusion
Gender equality - a toolkit for education staff
Malik, H. (2003) A Practical Guide to Equal Opportunities, Nelson Thorner Chapter 2
Millennium Cohort Study, Exploration of Some Distinctive Results for Scotland
The Child at the Centre
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 & 2009