“The Human Rights Act 1998 came in to force in October 2000 and had a big impact on current legislation in UK.” (Tassoni. P, 2007, pg. 115) Although this Act was not created specifically for the protection of children, It does ensure that children have the same rights as adults, for example the right to dignity. It also ensures they are given respect and fairness in the way they’re treated. This led to settings not being able to use any type of ‘physical punishment’, like slapping or caning despite gaining the parent’s consent to do so or not because it is seen as a violation to a child’s right as it is degrading.
The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child 1989 was also signed by the UK as an addition to The Human Right Act 1998 as it gives children under the age of 18 their own set of rights. This particular piece of legislation was separated into five separate strands; reinforcing the importance of fundamental human dignity; highlighting and defending the family’s role in children’s lives; making sure children are respected; supporting the principle of not discriminating children; as well ensuring that the legal framework of the UK complies with the Convention.
Within this piece of legislation are many articles which focus on difference parts of children’s rights, but there are a specific few that have an impact on practice. For example: Article 2 – which talks about the right to be protected against any discrimination – means that practitioners have to treat all children fairly and settings must give equal opportunities; Article 3 – says that the best interest of the child should always be considered in actions where they are concerned – this means that practitioners have to ensure the child has the care they needs and that all their needs are being met, whether the practitioner agrees with the way it’s done;
Article 12 – states that children have a right to express their views freely, and be listened to – which means that all children’s opinions, likes, dislikes etc. are taken into consideration at all times; Article 13 – Talks about children having freedom of expression and exchange of information regardless of frontiers – this means children should be able to ask questions and be answered with things that concern them; and Article 28 – A child has the right to education with a view to achieving – which is why children in the UK from the age of around 5 must attend some kind of educational setting.
Another piece of legislation used in the UK is the Children Act 1989 which was created after the UNCRC was adopted, it was made to bring other pieces of legislation together into one Act, but this meant that it covered a wide range of things from child protection to the inspection of settings to parental responsibilities. As a result of this act settings now have to make sure they view parents as partners as they are the child’s main carer and have a right to know and help with their child’s development, this is done by regularly updating the parents and sharing all information. It also stated that the welfare of the child is paramount and that children and young people’s views should always be taken into consideration during any decision making about their future care within all settings.
After the Children Act 1989 came the Children Act 2004 which was made as an addition and provided for a children’s commissioner as well as allowing the government to ensure that the ‘Every Child Matters’ scheme had a legal framework to go with it. This scheme is now used through out appropriate childcare settings and ensures that the services at hand for children work together more effectively.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was made so that discrimination against children and their families was prevented, this is because the act made it illegal not to provide access for disabled people to their settings whether this meant providing wheelchair access, or having things printed in large fonts for parents/carers or ensuring children are given the opportunity to join in all activities and experiences regardless of their disability.
E3 – In order to safeguard children, all settings have many policies and procedures in place to ensure that practitioners know what their roles and responsibilities are at all times. Other wise, the children would be at risk from many different things. Policies like; Health and Safety; Child Protection; Anti Bullying; Behaviour; Fire Procedures; Partnership with Parents; Anti-Discrimination; Food Hygiene/Avoiding Cross-infection; Whistle blowing; Confidentiality and a Signing in/out Policy all help to keep children healthy, safe and secure and avoid putting them in any danger or harm.
The signing in/out policy means that any visitor or volunteer who comes into the setting should wear proof of identification that shows that they are a member of staff especially in larger settings. It is also crucial to check the adults coming in, are allowed to be in the setting, (for example parents who are not allowed to pick up their child) and all visitors should sign in and out of the setting which not only provides the setting with proof of identity but also lets the staff know who has entered the building and when, which helps to protect children as it means no one who may put the children at risk are allowed around the children, and that in the case of any child being abused by a visitor or someone entering the building, it is possible to look back and have access to important information like names and dates.
A whistle blowing policy is for someone within the organisation or setting that wants to report inappropriate actions of another practitioner by alerting someone in a higher position to them e.g. room supervisor who then deals with the report and helps to prevent any abuse from those employees working directly with the children which in turn helps to prevents the allegations of abuse in future.
The Food hygiene or Cross infection policy was implemented to avoid any children (or staff) becoming ill and catching infectious illnesses. Using this policy means that all staff who prepare and cook food which is served to others, have to be trained in food handling procedures, as well cleaning of resources, toys and equipment of there is an outbreak of infectious illness within the setting. This is to avoid any germs spreading causing other children and staff to have poor health.
E4 – All settings have specific policies to ensure that children and their families feel welcomed and included at all times during their time at the nursery. One of the policies which does this is the Equal Opportunities policy which means as a practitioner you have a duty to ensure that children as well as their carers are valued and not discriminated against either by adults or by other children. This policy also helps to prevent discrimination because every one is entitled to join in all activities, regardless of their age/stage or ability. This is because the policy says that every activity or experience provided at the nursery must be easily adaptable for everyone to participate in.
By having a settling in policy, this also makes parents/carers feel more welcomed into the setting and more reassured about their child starting at the nursery, because it shows them you understand that each child is different in the way they adapt to new situations, some fit right in, and others take time to get used to the new people and activities.
The behaviour policy which can be found in all childcare settings also helps to prevent any children or families being discriminated against, because by having this policy parents/carers understand that the practitioners are being fair if a situation occurs where a child behaves inappropriately, this means that allegations of discrimination are less likely to be made against practitioners and parents understand that behaviour policy applies to ALL children, and any other child would be treated equally.
E5 – As children, we depend on adults a lot, but the older we get, the more independent we become. If adults give children the chance to be self-reliant, and independent, they become confident in themselves and their ability to do certain things, which means they feel empowered. To do this, children must be given choice in lots of things they do, and encouragement to do things by themselves where choice is not available, for example getting dressed or going to the toilet.
One way to offer children choice as part of their daily routine, is through food, as all children have to eat, but all children are different and enjoy different food. If a practitioner gives the child choice between two types of vegetables or drinks, for example then the child will learn to make simple decisions, and the more they do it the more confidence they will gain as they know what they like and dislike, and this will make them feel ‘grown up’ and help there self-esteem grow rather than someone telling them what they are eating and them doing so.
One other strategy for helping children to feel empowered through choice, would be in play, this is done by setting up various activities and letting them choose between them, this is a more child-led approach, as they are able to find an activity most suited to their interests, instead of being told they are doing a specific activity and not enjoying it. By letting them choose, again they will feel more independent and if they enjoy the activity they will also become more confident because they will feel like they made the right choice for themselves giving them a sense of achievement.
D2 – By giving children choice in both food, and in play, you are encouraging them to be independent, even if they don’t realise it. However, it is important that children are allowed to change there mind in play as this helps them learn what they enjoy doing, children might not understand what kind of things they ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ they just know what they want to do. By giving them choice, and asking why they made that choice, they should learn and understand their preferences helping them to make simple decisions in the future, leading them to make more complicated ones later on.
It is important that practitioners ensure they are using ‘choice-giving’ as a way to empower children, rather than getting them to do what the practitioner wants. For example, it is not helpful to the child, if you say ‘you can either choose to apologise to this girl, or you are not going outside’ the child is being given a choice, rather than understanding their actions we’re unkind. You need to be clear on what is right or wrong and explain consequences and give choice through other activities, and as a practitioner, it is unfair on the child if you tell them they made a ‘bad choice’, instead you should ask them to evaluate their own choice and the consequences so they can make a better choice for them in future. By doing this, they have confidence in themselves because they will feel good after making a choice which is suitable for them, for example being kind to another child, will mean they are praised and shows they know how to respect others, not only encouraging them to be kind more often, but also easing decision making for them helping them to feel empowered.
E6 – During a child’s life, they will have to go through many transitions, most children will go through the transition of moving class, or school, some children may move house or city, and other children may go through bereavement. Most of these transitions, practitioners can help prepare for by doing many things. For example, most childcare settings have a ‘settling in policy’ that they can refer to for new children. This is because If a child is moving from nursery to reception in a completely separate building with new teachers, they will find it very distressing if it is quite sudden. However there are many things settings can do to help the child settle in steadily, like: Meeting the teacher/key worker a few times before they start, where the practitioner will introduce themselves and get to know the child, this is so they know a familiar face, and know that they can trust the teacher/key worker.
Having half days is also an important way of introducing a child to a new situation, especially if they are going from half days to full days in a new place. Other wise the child will be overwhelmed, they will feel uncomfortable being in a new place with new people for longer than they are usually left without their parent/carer. Once they have started at a new place, it may be reassuring for them to have their previous teachers or key workers visit, as they are likely to trust them, and notice that if they feel comfortable here, then it is okay for the child to feel comfortable too helping them feel reassured. Some places may offer for the child to come once or twice for short sessions and participate in activities like stories, this gets them used to the place in small doses and that way when they officially move, they will be used to the building and the people, making it less distressing for them.
E7 – Unfortunately in some settings discrimination may occur, against some children and families. Which is why it important to ensure that you are fair and treat everyone as a unique individual. Discrimination can occur when people have stereotypical attitudes, this means that they see a group of people with one characteristic in common and think they are all the same, for example, ‘disabled people cannot live by themselves’. Some stereotypes can lead to practitioners making assumptions about what children can do. Prejudice is also another cause of discrimination, as it stems from stereotyping. If someone is prejudice then it means they are pre-judging someone without knowing anything about them, due to a specific stereotypical view a practitioner may hold. For example, if a child is over weight, they may assume the child doesn’t want to take part in physical activities. Which is unfair on the child, as this is not necessarily true.
If a child or there family, is discriminated against, they will start to pick up on the actions of the practitioner, and it will have an affect on their self-esteem, and self-worth, as by the age of 3 or 4 a child will have developed their sense of identity and understand racial and gender differences, and the way people treat each other. A child will understand the differences in the way the people they look up to treat others especially if it because they are a different race, age or gender. If they feel discriminated against, they will have a lower self-worth and self-esteem, they may grow up feeling inferior to others because of different characteristics like colour, they may fear failing new activities, leading them t achieve and succeed less at school, or have difficulty in developing emotionally/socially in order to form relationships in the future.
D1 – Gathering information to support the child would be a good way to prepare children for transitions because practitioners often feel the need to reassure children by talking about the new setting they are going to, whether it is a hospital, new school etc. but often the children are given misinformation, leading them to expect certain things or do things in a particular way, this can make their first experiences within a setting more difficult. Therefore it is important that practitioners find out information for themselves before sharing with the children, this can be done through websites, particularly for schools, brochures, prospectus’ or leaflets about certain procedures, talking to other people who may have already been through the same transition, e.g. older siblings.
Or possible letters and phone calls where you can directly find out about certain enquiries you or the children may have. By doing this you can successfully answer children’s questions and support them and hopefully they will then feel reassured about the change. Working in ‘partnership with parents is crucial for a child to succeed in calmly changing settings. This is because we can only do our best for the children in our care if we involve their parents and families. We need to listen to what parents can tell us about their children and accept that as their child’s main carer they hold a lot information, practitioners could use to help support the child. Firstly, children may confide in their parents/carers about things troubling them linked with the transition, and whilst parents may not have the answers, practitioners may be able to help, therefore it is essential that communication between the two is continuous.
There are many other ways to help children communicate their expectations and fears, some more subtle than others. For example, Role play, using an object or toy, drawing, changing activities and promoting the development of self-help skills. One way to encourage children to talk about their worries or questions, is bringing an object or toy, for example using a teddy, explaining that he is going through a transition just like the children and asking them what they think the teddy may be worried about.
This strategy often brings up their subconscious thoughts. Using drawing activities can also be helpful, as you could ask them to draw scenarios they predict will happen at the new setting. Changing activities and promoting self help skills is particularly important, if the child is moving in education, as they will have to be more independent, have the ability organise themselves, particularly if they are in charge of their own lunch money, or transport, and need to be responsible for their own possessions. Helping them to prepare for practical activities, like getting a bus on their own, will give them confidence as they feel more grown up and independent, although in this case it important that the child is given accurate information so they know what to expect.
C1 – A lot of childcare settings have modelled their techniques after Vygotsky’s principles, allowing children to have a supportive learning environment and empowering them to develop their personal strengths. Experiences that students have at school contribute to learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Vygotsky says that children need to be taught using structured education where a teacher can give clear instructions to help children learn as well as social interaction between children.
Vygotsky’s theory suggests that there are three ways in which children learn; firstly, imitative learning, where the child copies the actions of others; Instructed learning comes second, where a child acts out what the teacher tells them to do and they learn through activities, and; the third is collaborative learning. Collaborative learning happens when a group of children work together in order to achieve a specific goal which helps them as they are working to understand each other.
Teachers and carers, want to get the most from students, challenging them to reach their highest potential and once they do they will feel confident in their own abilities and have a higher self-esteem. Vygotsky’s belief that social interaction leads not only to easier learning for the child, but that it actually changes a child’s thoughts and behaviours. Vygotsky believed that exposing children to various cultures meant that they would be more knowledgeable about the world and themselves.
Learning through this means that children develop their own self-worth as they will evaluate how much knowledge they can put forward into a group and how helpful they are. The more experiences that a child has, the more about other people and cultures they find out, and the more they learn the more independent they should become as experiences such as these will help them to form their perceptions of the world which all leads to children feeling independent and therefore empowered.
An equal opportunities policy means as a practitioner you have a duty to ensure that children are valued and not discriminated against either by adults or by other children. Equality of opportunity means ensuring children in a setting’s care are seen as being individual and special. However, this does not mean treating all children exactly the same as some children may need more adult help and support than others or even special equipment to undertake and participate in activities. Equality of opportunity means ensuring that children are equally valued and given the same opportunities to fulfil their own potential.