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Inclusive practice in the early years: what are you missing?

11 min of reading
10 July 2023
Inclusive practice in the early years - preview image

Inclusive practice is often thought to only apply to children with SEND. Absolutely, adaptive teaching approaches are a large part of making your nursery setting truly inclusive. But to remove the barriers faced in every UK nursery, we must look at the bigger picture of inclusion.

But first, let’s unpick what inclusive practice means in the early years.

Jump ahead to:

    What is inclusive practice in the early years?

    Inclusive practice in the early years is more than simple differentiation when accessing a learning activity. It focuses on practice, policy and culture around inclusiveness for SEND, race, religion, economic background, language, gender identity and sexuality. To be truly inclusive, your nursery must first know what good practice looks like.

    Insisting on nursery values

    Promoting and insisting upon are two very different approaches to inclusion. Although similar phrases, one ensures every plan, policy implementation and action follows an inclusive direction. By insisting on inclusive practice in your nursery, your staff, children and parents will recognise the priority your setting has for supporting diversity and difference.

    Being proactive about barriers

    If your EYFS setting supports mainly White British families, is there a pressing need to ensure your prospectus is available in different languages? It would be best to think proactively about potential inclusion barriers new parents may face when joining your nursery. Translating your Google Docs (nursery policies) into a different language is simple.

    Top tip:

    check that you follow Google’s advice to convert from Microsoft Office editing to the correct format to use this feature.

    SEND support for toddlers

    Ensuring your nursery practitioners know the four areas of need helps keep families supported. A wealth of high-quality SEND resources is available for parents seeking further support. Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) help children to achieve ambitious outcomes across all areas of their lives. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the most common type of need with EHCPs in the UK. Helpful websites with informative lists about charities, peer support groups and information hubs can be shared with your nursery parents.

    Asking for expert advice

    Have a child who is displaying significant discomfort with sensory activities? Gather expert advice on how best to support sensory overload. The first, and often forgotten, step can be the parents. Invite a parent into the nursery setting after childcare hours to identify any potential sensory challenges for the child. Their adaptive suggestions could be a game-changer for that child’s enjoyment in the nursery setting, not to mention the parent’s feeling of involvement and value, which we know is one of the most effective ways to develop engaged parent partnerships.

    Use an online or local network of educational professionals, trusted blog articles and local authority services to support families that will benefit from additional expert advice. The historical changes to the English Additional Language (EAL) provision in England have reduced or removed the local authority central support services. Charities like The Bell Foundation support exclusion through language education, aiming to change practice, policy, and systems for all.

    What are the benefits of inclusive practice in early years education?

    Inclusive practice in your nursery setting benefits all involved: staff, children, parents and the local community. When inclusive practice is designed and implemented well, you can see what other settings that touch on inclusion are missing out on.

    What are the legal requirements in the UK for SEND in EYFS?

    There are a number of documents that are useful when evaluating how your nursery supports children with SEND.

    EYFS Framework on SEND

    So, what does the EYFS framework say about SEND? Mentioned right out of the gates in the four guiding principles for EYFS practice is the recognition that all children learn at different rates (including children with SEND), and this should be understood by all nursery practitioners. It is accepted that all providers will have arrangements to support any SEND children who register at the setting

    SEND Code of Practice in the early years

    The SEND green paper (published in March 2023) has recommended changes to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice. These proposed changes will impact all EYFS settings when implemented. All maintained nursery schools must support SEND children in the following ways:

    Early years providers must inform parents of the specialist support their child receives and the impact on progress. Progress updates can be in the form of images, videos or through staff observations shared with the parents in an easy-to-access method.

    How to promote inclusive practice in the early years

    Promotion and insisting are different terms, as mentioned earlier. In this instance, we will use the term promoting as it links to your direct nursery marketing strategy to increase parent confidence in your setting.

    Celebrate diversity across your nursery provision

    Have a look for upcoming days, weeks or months of significance. For example, June was LGBTQ+ month, the perfect opportunity to evaluate your inclusive presence around your setting. Look at the authors you support and share their stories, and invite parents in to share their family structures. Your nursery newsletter can be the ideal way to celebrate how you encourage inclusivity and equality in your provision.

    Mirror your inclusive ethos in your nursery policies

    You have several statutorily required policies in EYFS, but do these policies mirror your inclusive practice? Reviewing your nursery policies once a year is expected and good practice (more regularly if possible). Have an inclusivity ‘hat’ on for your next review; consider the language used to describe your nursery practitioners. Is it proactively inclusive?

    Parent involvement in inclusion

    Developing strong working relationships with parents is essential for child progression in the nursery. Active, open, and honest communication between the nursery and home can open the discussion channels about potential SEND concerns. Helping families to get the right support at the earliest opportunity.

    What does an inclusive nursery look like?

    Inclusive practice should be fluid to meet the needs of the pupils and families of your nursery setting. If your setting is predominantly one faith, seek networking opportunities with local churches, synagogues and mosques. Here are a few of our favourite ways to demonstrate inclusive practice in the early years.

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