A key part of the first phase of the Diversity + project, which was successfully completed in February 2021, was related to the collection of good practices on the topic of inclusive education in early childhood, in each of the countries participating in the project. Despite difficulties and challenges of all kinds, in each country, specialists, representatives of local authorities and educational institutions are constantly working to improve the inclusivity of their services. Worthy of respect are their creative decisions and successes.
A total of 29 examples were collected from all participating countries, as well as from other European regions, and compiled in the E-Book Diversity Inclusion in ECEC.
Below, we share a selection of the gathered examples grouped according to common characteristics that can define high quality inclusive ECEC centres:
- Flexible, deeply embedded in the local community with the vital connections and networking with other local services such as local schools and neighbourhood child-, family- and social services
An inspiring example is the creative project TOY for Inclusion, Skola dokoran – Wide Open School n. o., Slovakia. Within the project, Play Hubs are being set up in carefully selected locations with a good potential for bringing together children and adults of all ages from diverse backgrounds. The project provides them with a safe space, furnished with high-quality educational materials and toys the families otherwise couldn’t afford to use or own themselves.
Another inspiring example is Prima Infanzia Social Club (Associazione Genitori Scuola Di Donato, Rome, Italy), aiming to support single mothers to facilitate their inclusion in a social and working context and offer them training and empowering opportunities.
- A whole child approach – acknowledging and respecting the language, individuality, and all other characteristics of the child
As inspiring examples, we can mention the Multisensory garden (Karin dom Foundation, Bulgaria), building and implementing an organised outdoor educational space aimed at “sensory integration” in the education and upbringing of children аnd also the model of preschool integration of children with special needs in 59 Kindergarten “Elhitsa” in Sofia, Bulgaria: a working model of educational integration of children with special needs in the mass groups of kindergartens.
Another inspiring and successful example is LFS – Language Friendly School (Rutu Foundation for Intercultural Multilingual Education, the Netherlands). The concept of the LFS is a bottom-up, whole child and whole school approach. In this school, all children have access to a language friendly-learning environment where they feel accepted and valued for who and everything they are. No child is sanctioned for speaking in their mother tongues (first languages) while in school.
- A whole institution approach – all voices and perspectives are heard, including the child’s perspective
Non-standard is the project Bambini Dalla Periferia al Centro (ConOpera Social Coop, Florence, Italy), funded by the social enterprise Con I Bambini and implemented by a public-private partnership. The project aims to create and strengthen generative relationships by promoting an alliance between families and the territory, considered as the basis of a true educating community.
At Ludens centres in Utrecht, the Netherlands, the focus is on creating an exciting and supportive environment in which children can discover the world and develop themselves through play, in their own way and at their own pace. All staff are committed to give all children the space to be themselves, and everybody has a say: children, parents, professionals and the local community.
- Continuous professional development – action research approach, practitioners as researchers of their practice, coaching and professional learning communities
The Good Start Methodology, created by Schola Empirica, Prague, Čzech Republic is inclusive, based on cooperation with parents. The Good Start methodology is being developed for parents and social workers. It presents methods and strategies of how to support the social and emotional development of children and how to deal with problematic situations.
- Introducing research-based practices
In the KindeRdam daycare centres in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the focus is on building democratic communities by closely collaborating with universities, and external experts, while at the same time engaging practitioners in researching their practice.
- Parental involvement – parents are seen as resourceful partners
Worthy of an example is the Deti deťom Domček family centre in Dobšiná, Slovakia. The Detstvo deťom provides comprehensive services for families in the surrounding community and caters to diverse target groups including young and older children as well as their parents. This initiative acknowledges the essential role of the parent as the primary role model for a child. The child follows the example of their parents. Therefore, parents need help in becoming positive, worthy, and responsible role models for their children. Through tactful guidance, but also professional lectures, educational activities and other activities in its family centre and directly with families, the employees help parents expand their horizons and gain confidence in their parenting skills.
Another successful example is the ELMER organisation in Brussels, Belgium which offers high quality and accessible childcare to diverse and often vulnerable families. It does so by proposing training and employment opportunities for parents and building a diverse ECEC workforce that takes ownership of the service and acts as a bridge with families.
- Attracting more men into ECEC and supporting them once they are recruited
The MITEY (Men in the Early Years) network and campaign in the UK promotes gender equality in ECEC, building a space for men in the sector to keep them motivated, comfortable with their career choice and welcome, as well as to provide a space where employers can gain ideas about how to employ more men in their workforce and support those that they do employ. The resources produced by MITEY simultaneously support ECEC organisations in attracting men into their sector and highlight the importance of and commitment to creating a mixed-gender workforce.
Detailed information on all 29 inspiring practices can be found here.