Childhood

WE INSPIRE INNOVATION IN DIDACTICS

We transform challenges and opportunities of the nowadays society into new approaches, tools and resources for a better capitalization of learning outputs.

WE INSPIRE INNOVATION IN DIDACTICS

We transform challenges and opportunities of the nowadays society into new approaches, tools and resources for a better capitalization of learning outputs.

In the European Union, early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been a growing priority on the policy agenda. This interest in the early years is inspired by a rapidly expanding body of scientific research in different disciplines that points to substantial economic, social, educational and developmental benefits of participating in high-quality early childhood education and care. These benefits are not limited to the children involved, but extend to society at large.

The importance of early childhood education and care for lifelong learning, social cohesion and integration

Learning and education do not begin with compulsory schooling – they start from birth. The early years from birth to compulsory school age are the most formative in children’s lives in physical, social, emotional and cognitive terms and has a profound and long-lasting impact on a person’s future as well as in terms of social cohesion and integration.

The increased attention on early childhood education and care can also be explained by demographic and economic changes that the EU Member States have experienced over the last years (increased participation of women in the labour market, extended working lives thus diminishing role of grandparents in childcare, increased multiculturality of societies, evolving career aspirations, declining fertility rates, rising ages of those giving birth…) have all tremendously changed how childcare is organised – shifting the focus outside the households.

The availability of high quality, early childhood education and care for young children is more and more a top priority for the EU and its Member States, despite varying greatly within and between countries, between private and public settings, between urban and rural or remote areas, as well as between age groups (0-3 and 3-6). The European Pillar of Social Rights and the Commission Communication on School development and excellent teaching underscore that children have the right to high quality services, which play a decisive role in improving education outcomes, including the development of social competences. Therefore, early childhood education and care needs to be regarded as the foundation of education and training systems and be an integral part of the education continuum towards the successful realisation of lifelong learning.

In January 2018, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning which refers to early childhood education and care and the importance of supporting competence development in early years education with a focus on social and emotional competences.

The work of early childhood education and care professionals (as well as, on the other hand, non-intervention) has a long-lasting impact on children’s lives. The research shows that children can become aware of multiple areas of bias (including ethnicity, age, physical abilities, physical characteristics, gender, family composition and sexual orientation, economic class) from about the age of two and that they are capable of developing negative attitudes and prejudices about these from about the age of three onwards via social interaction in peer groups in and out of school or preschool settings.

However, ECEC practitioners may even have varying views as to how to address diversity and equality. This might apply to situations related to disabilities, gender and ethnic minorities. This reinforces the need that specific knowledge, skills and competences regarding diversity and equality shall be acquired by ECEC staff as part of their professional development.

The project DIVERSITY+: Governance, Benchmarking and Training tools for Diversity positive ECEC provision

Moving from the Commission Recommendation on Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage and disengagement, Diversity+ looks to develop governance, benchmarking, recognition and professionalisation tools for ECEC professionals in order to understand and improve their current approach to Diversity inclusion, thus contributing to effective lifelong learning and development of individuals.

In particular, the project looks to develop a complementary approach which allows ECEC organisations to fully understand how different Diversity identities fit into their services, and so develop approaches which are fully inclusive to all. This will be achieved by calibrating the EU Quality Framework for ECEC in light of inclusiveness of provision. Diversity+ resources will create a structured and supported approach to quality inclusive service design.

The toolkit is made up of:

  • A Diversity+ Charter to set out the minimum requirements for an ECEC organisation to be considered Diversity positive;
  • An interactive digital Assessment tool which ECEC practitioners will be able to use to assess current services and track improvements;
  • An EQF profile and training resources for the development of a Diversity Ambassador role;
  • A serious game that will help ECEC practitioners remove negative attitudes, bias and prejudices among kids, fostering empathy, compassion and awareness in relation to equality and diversity.

This will produce an increase in the number of children from marginalised or vulnerable groups engaging with ECEC services while ECEC staff will develop key social skills, empathy, compassion, mutual respect and awareness in relation to equality and rights, ultimately improving long-term social inclusion across the countries and societies involved.

The DIVERSITY+ beneficiaries

The Diversity+ project is addressed to a range of target groups, demonstrating the need to act at structural, managerial and operational levels:

ECEC leaders and managers, as these are responsible for the governance structures at ECEC institutions and are the first who need to understand and embrace the Diversity+ tools and best practices so to facilitate an internal multiplier effect which creates an impact across other functions within ECEC institutions in their everyday activities.

Educators and assistants working in any regulated arrangement that provides ECEC from the age of 3 to the compulsory primary school age — regardless of funding availability, opening hours or programme content – likely to promote the realisation of diversity inclusive settings through clear directions and skills.

Children aged 3-6 and their families will increase their participation rate in ECEC, including those having special needs or fewer opportunities (e.g. Roma, migrant and refugee children, children with disabilities, in alternative care and street children, children of imprisoned parents, as well as those belonging to households at particular risk of poverty and social exclusion, such as single-parent or large households).

Decision makers, other professional stakeholders working on either ECEC or Diversity inclusion issues and Regional Diversity advocacy groups, in order for them to go in deep to grassroots and policy challenges, strengths, weaknesses etc. of Diversity inclusion in European ECEC provisions and prototype new, forward-looking approaches.

The DIVERSITY+ toolkit

The “Diversity+ Charter” – for ECEC directors to keep up-to-date with the different provisions to conform to in order to consider an ECEC provision Diversity positive, and create governance approaches to Diversity inclusion which are benchmarked against robust quality requirements understand. This includes HR policy and staff training, activities design, facilities offered and children support services.

Whilst the idea of a charter for service design exists on a regional level in some European countries, the problem is that they focus on the needs of one specific (Diversity) group, and are rarely focused on pre-schoolers.

Therefore, for partner countries where charters do not exist, the results of the output will offer a new approach to help guide ECEC providers’ engagement with Diversity identities and their full inclusion without bias and stereotypes. At the same time, in those partner countries where charters have begun to emerge, the project’s pluralistic approach will mean that they can more effectively address the myriad of nuanced issues found across different Diversity by being able to compare and contrast the different provisions required for each group in one document.

The digital and interactive “Diversity Footprint Assessment Tool” – for ECEC officers, often not specialised in diversity inclusion, to assess current services and understand the concrete, necessary changes needed to improve their provision. The organizations rated as having an ‘excellent’ Diversity footprint will receive a Certificate.       

The “European Qualification Framework of Diversity Ambassador in ECEC environments” for ECEC Human Resource managers to profile key knowledge, skills and attitudes required to respond to individual needs of children from different backgrounds and with special educational needs, and to manage diverse groups.                 

The partners will produce the EQF profile and resources for the development of a Diversity Ambassador role and translate them into all partner languages. Appointing an Ambassador for inclusion will be a key feature of a diversity positive provision. The EQF will offer a concrete template for ECEC schools to use when establishing such a position. Equally, the output will develop a series of support resources to help organisations understand the steps needed, an approach which will make the creation of a Diversity Champion far easier.

The interactive “Diversity+ Serious Game” for ECEC educators and assistants to help children in recognizing and challenging bias rather than internalizing it, to place a positive value on those differences and to treat all people with respect. The scenarios are built around common situations arising in everyday dynamics related to discrimination, racism, bias and stereotypes.

Players immerse themselves in the game context and make decisions in the first person. In this way learning occurs through experience and the player has the chance to see the immediate consequences of a specific decisional process. The player is also prompted to find out further information to progress in the story and achieve a final objective, putting emphasis on: how to make the invisible visible; how to combat racism and prejudice directly; how to increase knowledge of own group and others; how to reduce inter-group conflict; how to develop critical thinking; how to create opportunities for problem-solving; how to nurture solidarity; how to celebrate differences; how to foster empathy, compassion, mutual respect and awareness in relation to equality and diversity to create an inclusive community.

For more info please write to opportunities@ciape.it

The DIVERSITY+ team

The project coordinator is CIAPE – CENTRO ITALIANO PER L’APPRENDIMENTO PERMANENTE, a non-profit association based in Rome, Italy, inspiring innovation in didactics in Europe. With more than 100 European projects successfully managed until now, CIAPE counts on a network of more than 300 partners all over Europe. In 2018 has opened a brand new co-working space in Rome, “The Apartment”, offering co-baby services to co-workers and the whole public, with the aim to strengthen the social skills of children from their birth, so to train the so-called soft skills through play. Children can learn while having fun, communicating their needs appropriately, relating to others effectively, working on assertiveness and empathy according to the Scandinavian model.

ISSA – INTERNATIONAL STEP BY STEP ASSOCIATION is an international membership association   based in Leiden, Netherlands, powered by leading early childhood experts in Europe and Central Asia. It unites and supports professionals and partners to deliver high quality early years services equitably. Since its inception, ISSA has grown into a vibrant learning community, a robust association currently consisting of more than 90 members from 40 countries. An important part of ISSA’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of its members to promote early childhood quality and equitable services. The association develops and disseminates resources among its members and beyond, provides training and professional development opportunities and facilitates peer learning.

SKOLA DOKORAN – WIDE OPEN SCHOOL is a foundation based in Ziar Nad Hronom, Slovakia, who cares about the needs of families from heterogeneous communities, especially those with children at an early age. A major focus of their work is on improving social inclusion regionally through support for marginalised groups. Its vision is that all families in heterogeneous communities, especially with children at an early age, live in a full-value and tolerant environment, have access to education and social services, and in addressing their needs they can rely on an open and competent public administration. ŠD – WOS pursues its priorities in early childhood development and education, reform of education system and education of the marginalized. It has a wide experience in the management of projects related to ECEC institutions.

ASPIRE-IGEN GROUP LIMITED is a social enterprise based in Bradford, United Kingdom. It is the largest careers and training organisation in the Yorkshire region (an area with a population of over 5 million). The group supports social inclusion and regeneration by providing a range of guidance and training services. This includes delivering vocational training programmes for NEET young people to prepare them for entry into the labour market. They are a recognised centre of excellence for professional development and provide training for careers and guidance professionals.

BFE – BUSINESS FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATION, is a foundation based in Sofia,  Bulgaria. BFE is a renewed provider of initial and continuing training for educators, from early childhood to HEI, and it looks to improve the subjects related to diversity and inclusion, adding a more practical dimension. This includes the development of professional tools and quality standards. The organization is a keen promoter of the guidance counselling profession.

LINK CAMPUS UNIVERSITY is a university based in Rome, Italy. It represents an experienced technical partner, specialised in building digital solutions and serious games. Their involvement in the project comes from a desire to add a further level of support to the solutions they offer to their ECEC partners when it comes to creating inclusive services. Link Campus University operates since 1999 as the Italian filiation of the University of Malta.

SCHOLA EMPIRICA is an NGO based in Praha, Czech Republic, operating since 2003 to increase the quality of Czech public policy, active in the research on current social issues and definitions, as well as the transfer of best practices in policy design and implementation. It is an accredited educational institution by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in the Czech R. Their goal is to support teachers (pre-schools, primary and secondary schools), social workers and parents, helping them to provide the best care for children.