There is increasing evidence that building more inclusive, just and fair societies must start with high quality, inclusive early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. Access to these services is beneficial for all children and especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds as a way to enhance equal opportunities.
The context of complex multi-diverse societies in which we live, requires early childhood services that strengthen social inclusion and embrace diversity. For that to happen, besides being accessible to all children and their families, ECEC services public or private, formal, non formal or informal should be designed and delivered with consideration of the unique needs of each child. In high quality ECEC programmes, all children have opportunities to develop their language, social, physical and cognitive abilities, and feel respected and inspired.
For ECEC settings, inclusive practices should not be seen as an additional component to the programme but as an intrinsic part of their vision and goals. This may require a change in institutional culture and, therefore, creating policy approaches that include HR strategies and staff training, activity design, facilities offered and child support solutions, working towards the full, high-quality inclusion of all young children, without bias or stereotypes.
This is not a straightforward process and ECEC centres seeking to be high quality and inclusive might not find it easy to create a truly inclusive institutional culture or even remain unaware of what it actually means to be inclusive.
With the aim to support ECEC settings, leaders and professionals to identify and overcome these challenges, the Diversity+ project has launched the Diversity+ Charter: a set of minimum requirements that ECEC services and institutions have to meet to accommodate different types of diversity and be classified as inclusive and diversity positive (Diversity+). Following the Council Recommendations on High Quality ECEC, the Diversity+ Charter is organised around five key areas: Access, Workforce, Curriculum, Monitoring and Evaluation and Governance for diversity inclusion. Each area contains a set of indicators defining what should be in place for Diversity+ ECEC. The Charter invites ECEC managers and professionals to engage in a continuous discussion and critical reflection on their existing policies with the aim to ensure that all children, their families, and ECEC staff feel welcomed, valued and respected.
The Diversity+ Charter is informed by desk and field research into current inspiring practices and emerging trends across Europe (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK), completed as a part of the Diversity+ project. An analysis and overview of all inspiring practices are compiled in the Diversity+ eBook.
Stay tuned: An online Diversity+ Benchmarking Tool is coming soon! It will provide you with an opportunity to assess your ECEC and inspire you to grow and thrive.
Diversity positive ECEC services
- are accessible to all children and organised in a democratic way that promotes and supports inclusion, equity, fairness, respect for all identities, and sensitivity to the individual needs of each child, professional, and family.
- play a crucial role in child development by ensuring that children’s rights are respected and that children are provided with the best conditions and support to reach their unique potential, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, religion, gender, language, ethnicity, skin colour or level of ability.
- take a progressive, universalistic approach which ensures that targeted services are provided to specific groups and individuals within the universal and inclusive ECEC environment.