Equality, Diversity and Rights

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Equality, diversity and rights in early years work

What you need to learn 1 The meaning of diversity in todays society 2 The importance of equality, diversity and rights in early years services 3 How early years services can recognise and promote equality, diversity and rights 4 Promoting equality, diversity and rights in your own early years practice



his unit introduces the concepts of equality, diversity and rights. These concepts form the foundation of your work with young children and their

families. Some of the language used may be new to you, so each time you see a new word look it up so that you understand precisely what it means. As your understanding of equality, diversity and rights grows, you will see that these important concepts are integral to the way in which early years settings and early years practitioners provide their services.

How you will be assessedThis unit is assessed internally.



1 The meaning of diversity in todays societyDiversity is about the differences between people you need to understand this in order to practise in early years and childcare settings. Contemporary British society today is diverse, DIFFERENCE Gender COMMENT In the past men had more rights than women and were seen as more important. Women still earn less than men for similar work and find difficulty in breaking through the glass ceiling to the most senior positions at work. There are far more derogatory terms, such as slag, used to describe women than men. with many different languages, ethnic groups and cultures. There are many aspects of diversity, or difference, but those most commonly recognised are described in the following table.

Race and ethnicity People categorise themselves and others based on race and ethnicity, such as being black or white, European or Asian. Many people in our society still place a preference on white skin and Western European background, and derogatory terms for black people are still used. Ethnic origin is different from race and usually covers a shared history, social customs and common ancestry. Culture All of us have a cultural background activities, beliefs, values, knowledge and ideas shared by a group of people. White, middle-class culture still dominates the media and is often seen as more valuable. People feel more comfortable with others of a similar cultural background and groups who hold power and influence in society tend to value others like themselves. Immigration into the UK has been taking place throughout our history. Waves of immigrants have come here from many countries of the world and have chosen to settle here. Today is no exception and many are here fleeing from persecution, war and disruption in their home countries, or simply to make a better life for themselves. Some groups have formed significant communities in different parts of the UK, whereas others are more integrated into our society. We are now part of an enlarged European Union and many immigrants to the UK are now coming from countries right across Europe. These people have a right to be here and to work in the UK.

Place of origin

Terminology used in this unitEquality In our society, equality is about fairness and ensuring people have the same rights regardless of their background or who they are. Any society that ensures its people have equal chances and equal treatment is building for its future by encouraging equality of opportunity for al l. Diversity is about differences, such as differences in gender, disability, race, age, culture, religion, social class, child-rearing practices, appearance, employment status or sexuality. Differences enrich our society and make it an exciting and challenging place to be. Rights are what we are entitled to as members of society. Our society recognises that rights often come with responsibilities. For example, we have a right to live in peace, but a corresponding responsibility to be peaceful ourselves. These rights are sometimes called moral rights and are based on ideas about what is right or wrong, fair or unfair and just or unjust.




COMMENT People are brought up with varying religious backgrounds. Religion is closely linked with culture. In the UK there is religious freedom and people are allowed to practise their religion without fear of prejudice. But criticism of a religion is often used as a cover for prejudice. As early years practitioners we have a duty to respect the beliefs that children and families hold. Values are held by all of us they are the beliefs and moral principles by which we live. We are likely to share many of the values of our society, such as respect for human life and opposition to murder, but there is less agreement on other issues, such as capital punishment for people who commit murder. We need to make sure our values do not lead us to make negative judgments about other people. Youth is generally valued above old age, although the very young are also often not valued. There are problems for older people in employment and in relation to issues such as health care. People with illnesses are often made to feel different and outside mainstream society. This is especially true for mental health problems. People can also be treated differently if they are seen as somehow being responsible for their situation, such as with diseases like AIDS or lung cancer. People have different levels of physical ability, ranging from those who are super fit and physically able to those who may have severe physical disabilities which hinder them in taking a full part in our society. People make assumptions about disability and make negative judgements about those who are seen as disabled. The social model of disability is one which sees the problems as lying in societys lack of provision for disabled people, who could achieve substantially more given the right support. Another view is the medical model which concentrates on the persons disability and sees them as a condition rather than as a whole person with the ability to achieve. In early years settings the social model is the one that is used, as it encourages us to look at the whole child, regardless of their physical ability, and help them to achieve as best they can. People learn differently and have different abilities. Children with special educational needs learn differently from most children of the same age. These children may need extra or different help from that given to other children. This refers to a persons income or wealth, and so can also refer to differences in social background, education, income or lifestyle. Assumptions are made about people who are poor or have a limited lifestyle. People who are employed are often valued above those who are unemployed, regardless of the reasons. One of the first questions people ask each other is What do you do?. This refers to differences in family or social relationships, such as lone parents or same sex relationships. These are often not valued as much as heterosexual relationships and two-parent families. Even today divorced, separated or single people are often made to feel different. English is seen as the UKs mainstream language, but Welsh is also a mainstream language with a statutory basis. Children in Wales are routinely taught Welsh in state schools and many are essentially bilingual. Some children are multilingual, speaking a variety of home languages,



Health status

Physical ability

Learning needs

Economic status

Family structure




DIFFERENCE Language (contd.)

COMMENT as well as English and Welsh. Languages other than English or Welsh are often seen as less important, but in early years settings all childrens languages should be valued and respected. Within the UK there are a number of regional accents. Sometimes these are mocked and judged as inferior, although this is less likely to happen than 20 years ago. People who have English as an additional language may also have accents based on their first language. Being a gay man or lesbian woman is a difference. Homosexual relationships are often not valued as much as heterosexual relationships, and can suffer prejudice. People have different codes of behaviour according to their beliefs, values and backgrounds. People may have different codes of behaviour for different aspects of their lives. For example, people who live quiet and law-abiding lives may behave differently at football matches or when with certain friends. As early years practitioners, it is important to make sure our behaviour at work is highly professional at all times and adheres to the policies and procedures of the setting. Its also important to remember that our work is in a regulated setting and requires the confidence of parents and families. Therefore our behaviour outside of work may also affect our work status. This refers to families who may have been in trouble with the law. Many children are punished for their families offending behaviour by being separated from their parents or looked after by the state. It is important to remember that children who come from families with a history of offending should not be labelled or viewed as potential offenders themselves. Some families may require high degrees of support from early years services.



Codes of behaviour

Families with a history of offending

The table can only include broad categories. For example, the category gender is a broad term but we all know there are huge differences between men and other men, and women and other women. The main lesson is that the similarities between us are usually greater than the differences and we should always see people as individuals rather than as part of a particular group. We are all different. Also, it is important not to judge by appearances, as people with hidden disabilities, such as autism, deafness or mental health problems, may look just like anyone else. This can lead to reverse discrimination, where people with real needs are overlooked because they look like everyone else. It is important that we do not judge people who are different from us as either inferior or lacking in some way. Our society, in common with most others, values particular characteristics. These messages are often not deliberate but are picked up4 BTEC NATIONAL EARLY YEARS

The UK is multicultural and early years practitioners are responsible for helping all children to recognise and appreciate diversity.

by young children from their families and the world around them and reinforced throughout life by experiences, influential people and the media. For many of us, learning about diversity and relating to those who are different can be stressful, as we may feel that our own culture and values are under threat. We need to be aware of this and be willing to see the benefits of diversity in our society and in the workplace.

Think it over...Jo is a seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Her family are black and live on a South London housing estate with their three other children. In pairs, discuss your initials feelings and thoughts about Jo and her family. What sort of life do you think she has? What assumptions do you make? In fact both Jos parents are lawyers and she lives in a private estate of large detached houses. Jos cerebral palsy is very mild. Jo is a gifted musician and academically already performing at the highest level. She has twin elder sisters and an elder brother, all of whom are devoted to her.

Assessment activity


Re-read the section on pages 25 on diversity. Develop a leaflet for other students explaining the different elements of diversity.

2 The importance of equality, diversity and rights in early years servicesEquityEquity is about fairness, natural justice, and being impartial and reasonable. Many people will use the term equity in the same way as they would talk about equality. The principle of equity is very important and should be the hallmark of a civilised, mature society. British society, through its laws and practices, supports the view that fairness, tolerance and equity are important moral principles. A society that is not based on principles of equity will be an unequal and divided society. But even where society, at least in its laws and constitution, supports equity, there are still many gaps between rich and poor. Equity is not just about poverty but, if you are poor, you suffer most from a range of different problems and deprivations. The Child Poverty Action Group published, in 2005, a summary leaflet called Poverty: the Facts. This leaflet states that: 30 per cent were in households of working age not containing children

income poverty increased in the 1980s and1990s, from 13 per cent in 1979, to 25 per cent in 1996/97 and to 21 per cent by 2003/04. Children in poverty have lower educational attainments. In 2004 in England, 56.1 per cent of children not receiving free school meals got five or more GCSEs at grades A to C. This was double the rate (26.1 per cent) of children in receipt of free school meals. Childrens health is also affected: children of manual workers are five times more likely to die in accidents. The leaflet states that the causes of equality are as follows.

High income inequality. In 2003/04, thepoorest fifth of the population had a median income (the mid-point of incomes in this group) of 128 a week; for the richest fifth this was 616, nearly five times as much.

children face a higher risk of income poverty.In 2003/04 28 per cent of children (3.5 million) were poor

of all those income poor in 2003/04, 19 percent were pensioner households, 52 per cent were in households containing a child and

Worklessness. In 2003/04, 1.5 million peoplelived in households where either the head or spouse were unemployed. A total of 6.0 million individuals lived in households where adultsUNIT 1: EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND RIGHTS IN EARLY YEARS WORK 5

of working age were not working (for reasons including ill health and caring responsibilities).

Inadequate safety net. In 2005/06, safety netbenefits and tax credits were worth around 192 a week for a couple with children aged 5 and 11 80 less than the poverty line (272, uprated from 2003/04). For a lone parent with children aged 5 and 11 the safety net was worth 160, some 29 less than the poverty line of 189. Groups of people at greater than average risk of experiencing poverty are identified as follows.

It is clear that, despite efforts to bring about a more equitable society, there is still a long way to go. It remains to be seen whether the governments agenda for social inclusion, and a more equal society with better public services for all, will be achieved.



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