The evaluation has just been published of the Pre-School Education Initiative for Children from Minority Groups. The initiative, which the Government funded through the Dormant Accounts Fund, involved training and mentoring for early childhood educators in diversity and equality practice, using the Anti-Bias Education approach. The evaluation found the approach to be very effective in achieving positive change. The anti-bias approach supports educators to reflect critically on their practice. In Ireland it informed the development of the éist project, which in turn influenced the recent initiative. Its goals are to: Support children’s identity (individual and group) and their sense of belonging. Foster children’s empathy and support them to be comfortable with differences between children. Encourage each child to think about diversity and bias.
Empower children to stand up for themselves and others in difficult situations. It’s an approach that fits well with both the Síolta national quality framework and the Aistear curriculum framework. The principles of Síolta state that “equality is an essential characteristic of quality early childhood care and education”, and that quality settings “respect diversity and have their individual, personal, cultural and linguistic identity validated”. Similarly, nurturing equality and diversity is one of the 12 principles of Aistear, and “identity and belonging” is one of its four themes. Fundamentally, the anti-bias approach does not focus on additional supports for children from minority groups, but on changing mainstream practice so that the uniqueness of every child is recognised and supported, and so that the differences between all children are respected.
That’s why equality and diversity are so central to high quality practice – they benefit all children. The Pre-School Education Initiative involved training and mentoring of staff in 160 early care and education settings, spread across nearly all counties, in 2011-2012. Building on the work of the Equality and Diversity Early Childhood Network (EDeNn), the initiative was implemented through the City and County Childcare Committees, and was the first time the training was delivered at a national level.