Reflecting on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Early Years (2023)

As Early Years practitioners, we should never underestimate the power and influence we have on shaping the lives of children and families.

It is essential that we reflect on our attitudes, behaviour and practices. The attitudes of young children towards diversity are profoundly affected by the behaviour of the adults around them. Inclusion is not optional. Children have defined entitlements in this area and settings have legal and moral responsibilities.

In order to meet those responsibilities, we must first examine our own thoughts, attitudes and assumptions towards difference and diversity. To overcome barriers for children, we need to be aware that those barriers, not always obvious or instantly recognisable exist, particularly those barriers which are subconscious and attitudinal.

It is important that we are able to examine our feelings and attitudes, sensitively, honestly and openly to avoid successive generations of children experiencing bias and inequality which can lead to underachievement.

What does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Mean?

Equality means recognising and responding fairly to the needs of individuals and identities of all others. It provides every child with an opportunity to reach their full potential and have an equal chance to live their life as they choose. Equality also refers to the way we handle cases of prejudice and discrimination to ensure there is equality in the process and outcome.

The Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality for all. It provides a single, consolidated source of discrimination law, covering all the types of discrimination that are unlawful. Everything that we do in early years needs to be non-discriminatory and this requires regular reviews of practice, policies and procedures to ensure we do not discriminate against anyone without exception.

Diversity in the EYFS

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (April 2017) which sets the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five seeks to provide:

“Equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported.”


Providers have a responsibility to ensure positive attitudes to diversity and difference. Not only so that every child is included and not disadvantaged, but also so that they learn from the earliest age to value diversity in others and grow up making a positive contribution to society.

All children should have the opportunity to experience a challenging and enjoyable programme of learning and development.

Inclusion in the EYFS:

Inclusion is the process by which we value all individuals, recognising their unique attributes, qualities and ways of being. Central to good inclusive practice is children’s rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (1989) outlines the basic human rights to which children up to the age of eighteen everywhere are entitled: the right to survival; the right to the development of their full physical and mental potential; the right to protection from influences

that are harmful to their development; and the right to participation in family, cultural and social life. The Convention protects these rights by setting minimum standards that governments must meet in providing health care, education and legal and social services to children in their countries.

In order to ensure inclusive practice, we need to develop our ethos, policies and practices to include all learners with the aim of meeting their individual needs. To help to ensure inclusivity we must be proactive at removing the factors which act as barriers to inclusion such as negativity, bias and stereotyping. It takes a whole team approach to develop positive attitudes, implement clear strategies and nurture collaborative approaches.

Early years settings are well placed to provide a safe environment where parents, staff and children can learn about each other’s differences and similarities and learn to empathise and value each other.

Reflecting on Policies and Legislation:

  • Does your setting have an equality policy?– your setting should implement an effective policy which ensures equality of opportunities for all children regardless of culture, race, faith, belief, gender, sexual orientation, special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Is equality, diversity and inclusion inspected by Ofsted?– The early years inspection framework sets out the requirements which include children learning to respect and celebrate each other’s differences and develop an understanding of diversity beyond their immediate family experience, through a range of activities that teach them effectively about people in the wider world.
  • Are there opportunities for focussed discussion and training to help practitioners to consider the nature of discrimination and develop inclusive practice?Ensure opportunities for discussion, to review and implement, monitor and evaluate the setting’s race equality policy. Ensure staff have time and opportunities for professional development in race equality.
  • Do all staff understand the requirements of the legislation and can they make links?It is crucial that all staff have an awareness of the legislation and make links between the documents. For example, the fourth Fundamental British Value is: mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. It is important to accurately reflect our culturally diverse society so that all children learn about the society in which they live; to foster respect for other cultures and to ensure that children from minority ethnic groups are able to relate to their environment and activities and take pride in their ethnicity.

Reflecting on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in EYFS practice

Awareness of cultural diversity needs to be at an age appropriate level for Early Years children so that it is positive and meaningful. It is important that practitioners provide an exceptional range of resources and activities that reflect and value the diversity of children’s experiences. Schools and settings need to actively challenge gender, cultural and racial stereotyping and help children gain an understanding of people, families and communities beyond their immediate experience.

Challenging Stereo Types

(Video) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion An introduction

Researcher Marshall Duke found that children who knew their family histories were more resilient. If the narratives were just about the family’s successes, they were not as powerful as if the narratives told about both the ups and the downs… “we had plenty of hard times, but we made it through together.”It creates a story for children about resilience.

It is equally important for children to see themselves and others portrayed positively in books and posters in the environment. We need to consider how diverse our books are in the provision and to ensure images and pictures include different cultures, race and religion, different disabilities and family backgrounds so that all children feel represented and included.

In 1990 children’s literature scholar Rudine Sims Bishop wrote that

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of the world that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walkthrough in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”

At the end of this article, you will find a range of books which celebrate diversity. We must remain responsive to the different cohorts of children andwork closely with families, developing a mutual understanding of culture and heritage, and understanding the role this plays in planning for learning. We must actively seek out ways to counter the learning of negative attitudes towards difference.It's essential that the support, resources and experiences that we provide reflect the rich diversity of multi-cultural Britain and give all childrenthe opportunity to develop a positive self-identity, self-esteem and respect for others.

Points for Reflecting on Practice:

  • Are there opportunities to share experiences and explore the concept of fairness, tolerance and forgiveness through circle time and group activities and in everyday play such as role-play, small world and storytelling?
  • Do our resources reflect cultural and ethnic diversity and do not promote negative stereotypes, for example ensuring that dolls and puppets have realistic skin tone, facial features and hair texture?
  • Do we provide opportunities for children to explore household items from different cultures, stories and family photographs that realistically reflect a range of backgrounds?
  • Do we offer foods from a variety of cultures and share family recipes and traditions?
  • Do we provide books and stories free from stereotypes and promote positive role models from a wide diversity of backgrounds?
  • Do we provide opportunities to experience diversity through visits or hosting visitors from a range of backgrounds, such as sportspeople, storytellers, artists and musicians?
  • Do we recognise the need for training in race equality whatever the ethnic makeup of our setting and surrounding area?
  • Do we answer questions about race and ethnicity openly, honestly and sensitively?
  • Do we have a commitment to challenge racism?
  • Do we share that commitment with parents and carers and openly deal with racist remarks and other discriminatory behaviour making it clear that it is not acceptable?
  • Do we welcome all families equally?
  • Do we ensure all families have access to all the activities we offer?
  • Do we place value on equalities education in the same way we do other areas of learning?
  • Do we raise all children’s language awareness in our setting, for example, through dual language stories, songs and rhymes?
  • Do we find out which children in our setting speak or hear languages other than English at home or within the extended family?
  • Do we celebrate the languages and regional dialects of the children in our setting?
  • Do parents recognise the importance of the maintenance and development of their home languages? How do you know?

Books to Help Celebrate Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross – Susan may be in a wheelchair, but she is no different from any other child.
  • It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr – This book delivers important messages of acceptance, understanding and confidence. It is targeted at young children.
  • My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner – A young boy discusses the journey he is about to embark on with his mother.
  • It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner – Mum works really hard but today there is no money left and no food in the cupboards. This story gives a moving insight into the sad rise and necessity of food banks and the perspective of society’s most vulnerable.
  • Hands Up! by Breanna McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W Evans– A black girl raises her arms for many reasons throughout her life, from greeting the sun as a baby to taking part in a protest march as an adult.
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole – Two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches.
  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love – Julian wants to dress up like the spectacularly dressed women on the subway. But what will his grandma think about the mess he makes – and how Julian sees himself?
  • Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi EY Stemple and illustrated by Anne-Sophie – Proof that princesses can jump in puddles, climb trees, play sports and use power tools!
  • The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle – When a family of pirates move to a seaside town, neighbours are aghast and soon spreading rumours, while the family next door wishes their daughter would play with ‘normal’ girls and boys.
  • So Much by Trish Brown, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury – An uncle, auntie, cousins and grandparents all arrive eager to hug and kiss the baby.
  • Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Karen George – Will a hard-of-hearing fairy be able to grant Freddie’s wish for a pet, particularly when he tends to mumble?
  • Fussy Freya by Katharine Quarmby and Piet Grosler – One day, Freya says no to dahl and then to all her favourite foods, but her grandparents have a solution.
  • My Sister is an Alien by Rachel Bright – Space-mad Alfie is convinced his new sister is an alien and sets about returning her to the moon.
  • Tucking in – Just Like Me! by Jess Stockham – Babies will love lifting the flaps in this board book to find out all about themselves, and their tastes.
  • The Mega Magic Hair Swap by Rochelle Humes – Mai and Rose are best friends but they’re not two peas in a pod. Mai has dark curly and whirly hair that never stays put and Rose has blonde hair, as straight as a ruler, that slips and slides whenever she tries to put it in a ponytail. This is a joyful story about celebrating differences and loving yourself from head to toe!
  • Hair Love by Matthew Cherry -This tender and empowering story is an ode to loving your natural hair and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.

Lists of recommended books that celebrate diversity can be found at:

(Video) Equality Diversity & Inclusion in 2021 - WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?


More Information

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (1989)

The Equality Act 2010 and schools (DfE May 2014)

The special educational needs and disability (SEND) Code of Practice 0-25 years

Building futures- a focus on provision for black children in the EYFS

Building futures – a focus on provision for Gypsy, Roma and traveller background children in the EYFS

SEAD -social and emotional aspects of development

Confident, capable and creative: supporting boys achievement

(Video) Equality, Diversity and Inclusions Focus on the primary school teacher

Supporting children learning English as an additional language EYFS

(Video) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion A focus on early years practioners


What is equality diversity and inclusion in early years? ›

In childcare the term 'equality' means to ensure that all children are treated fairly, protecting their rights and offering the same opportunities regardless of any protected characteristics. Though children may come from diverse backgrounds, they should be treated equally and inclusively at all times.

Why is diversity and inclusion important in early years? ›

Effective inclusive practice provides all children with access to opportunities and support during the earliest and most influential years of their learning and growing. It also helps enable children to be confident in who they are and what they aspire to in the future.

What is the importance of diversity inclusion and equity in early childhood education? ›

Early childhood is the ideal time to begin emphasizing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Helping young students recognize the differences in genders, cultural backgrounds or physical abilities will help them become more considerate citizens and address injustice and discrimination as they grow.

How do you promote diversity in early childhood? ›

expand children's awareness of difference through social events, books, songs or play materials. research biographical stories of local people and people from around the world and introduce these stories to children. encourage children to recognise and appreciate people for the things that make them unique and special.

How do you promote diversity in early childhood education? ›

DEI examples in curriculum
  1. Create activities that allow students to share details about who they are, their culture, and their background. ...
  2. Provide various books, dolls, toys, and learning materials highlighting characters with diverse backgrounds, mental and physical qualities, religions, and more.
Jan 13, 2023

How do you promote inclusive practice in early years? ›

embrace and celebrate every child's uniqueness. treat all children and their families equally and with respect. include and support every child, regardless of ethnic background, culture, language, gender, socio-economic background or disability. ensure that every child is able to participate in activities.

How do you explain diversity and inclusion to a child? ›

How to involve kids
  1. Acknowledge differences. ...
  2. Ask open-ended questions and listen without judgment. ...
  3. Take time when you need it. ...
  4. Speak up when bias happens. ...
  5. Read diverse books and watch diverse media together. ...
  6. Discuss current events at an age-appropriate level with help from resources like Table Talk.
Sep 15, 2021

How can we promote equality and diversity in education? ›

How can we promote equality and diversity?
  1. Treating all staff and students fairly.
  2. Creating an inclusive culture for all staff and students.
  3. Ensuring equal access to opportunities to enable students to fully participate in the learning process.
  4. Enabling all staff and students to develop to their full potential.
Jun 14, 2022

What is the importance of promoting diversity in early childhood classrooms? ›

Exposing children to different cultures also helps them develop empathy. They learn to accept and respect those differences when they see that people from other cultures have different customs and beliefs. They also gain the ability to see their similarities with other cultures as well.

Why is it important to promote equality and diversity in education? ›

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the classroom helps to ensure that each student is able to learn in an environment where all aspects of their identities are recognised and respected, and where they feel safe and secure.

How do you encourage diversity equity and inclusion in the classroom? ›

With DEI efforts being more important (and often overwhelming) than ever, here are 8 ways to promote diversity and inclusion at your school.
  1. Assign a point person yet encourage collaboration. ...
  2. Give students a voice. ...
  3. Allow for self-reflection. ...
  4. Determine how you'll measure progress. ...
  5. Normalise discussions around biases.
Jul 20, 2022

How do you demonstrate diversity in early years? ›

Play materials, books and other resources can be offered in a constructive way by reflecting on how young children learn about culture and cultural identity. Shared culture is communicated through the events of daily life, such as food, ways of dress and familiar music or art forms.

How do you reflect diversity in childcare? ›

Some simple ideas can include:
  1. Pre plan cultural days ahead of time.
  2. Sing songs in different languages (ask families to write down words)
  3. Dance to music from different countries (ask families for music)
  4. Learning hello and goodbye in different languages.
  5. Cooking foods from around the world (ask families for recipes)
Jan 10, 2015

What is an example of diversity in childcare? ›

Cultural diversity in childcare provides a range of opportunities for children and families to celebrate differences. It's one aspect of diversity, which also embraces differences in gender, disabilities, age, social, and economic backgrounds.

How would you promote an inclusive environment in childcare? ›

Develop strategic inclusion plans. Provide families with easy-to-read information about the services operations and inclusive practices. Respect the family input with shared decision-making. Discuss children's individual requirements, play preferences and incidents sensitively, respectfully and confidentially.

How do you create an inclusive environment in childcare? ›

3 Ways to create an Inclusive Early Childhood Setting
  1. Understand the Challenges Your Students Face. Some young children face physical and/or cognitive challenges that can result in learning delays or difficulties. ...
  2. Think in Terms of Inclusion. ...
  3. Use Available Technology.
Dec 17, 2014

What is inclusive approach in early years? ›

What is inclusive practice in early years? Inclusion and inclusive practice in the early years is about practices which ensure that everyone “belongs”: the children and their parents and/or carers, staff and any other people connected with the early years setting in some way.

How a teacher can promote inclusion equality and value diversity in the classroom? ›

Ensure the diversity of your students is reflected in your lesson plans and activities. Ensure learning materials are non-racist, non-sexist, and non-discriminatory. Ensure you have adapted and provided support for those students who need extra help. Incorporate differing learning styles into your teaching plans.

What does diversity mean in childcare? ›

Diversity describes differences in age, culture, family structures, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

What are the three ways of promoting equality? ›

Creating an inclusive culture that has respect for all cultures and religions. Ensuring equal access to opportunities for all the citizens. Enabling people to develop their full potential. Educating people and making them understand the importance of Equality.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in children? ›

How to involve kids
  1. Acknowledge differences. ...
  2. Ask open-ended questions and listen without judgment. ...
  3. Take time when you need it. ...
  4. Speak up when bias happens. ...
  5. Read diverse books and watch diverse media together. ...
  6. Discuss current events at an age-appropriate level with help from resources like Table Talk.
Sep 15, 2021

How do you promote inclusion diversity and equality? ›

Ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  1. Be aware of unconscious bias.
  2. Communicate the importance of managing bias.
  3. Promote pay equity.
  4. Develop a strategic training program.
  5. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures.
  6. Make it easy for your people to participate in employee resource groups.
  7. Mix up your teams.
Jun 21, 2022

How can you support inclusion and diversity in childcare? ›

Strategies to Raise an Inclusive Child
  1. Be a role model. Children follow what we do more than what we say, so it's important that our actions are sending the right message. ...
  2. Teach compassion. ...
  3. Explain differences, don't ignore them. ...
  4. Use children's literature.
Nov 23, 2022

How do you promote equality and diversity in the classroom in inclusive education? ›

  1. Make it Personal. Provide opportunities for students to share their own experiences and perspectives. ...
  2. Include Various Perspectives. Provide a variety of perspectives on the topics you teach. ...
  3. Know Your Students. Get to know your students. ...
  4. Respect Diverse People. ...
  5. Respect Diverse Talents.

How do you create an inclusive environment in early years? ›

embrace and celebrate every child's uniqueness. treat all children and their families equally and with respect. include and support every child, regardless of ethnic background, culture, language, gender, socio-economic background or disability. ensure that every child is able to participate in activities.

Why do educators use reflection to support inclusion and diversity? ›

Reflections are an ongoing occurrence that enables us educators to think honestly about our professional practice and ideas. It challenges us to take a step back to analyse our personal experiences to enhance learning and speculate upon the future and act.

How can you support equality and diversity in the classroom? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

How do you show inclusion and equity in the classroom? ›

Professional Learning
  1. Fostering Equity. Make it Routine. Critical Thinking. Language and Vocabulary. Recognize Individuality. Imagery. Initiate Activities. Give Youth a Voice. Create Safety. Build Community. Different Needs. Positive Modeling. Share Our Stories. Community Connections.
  2. Interrupting Inequity: Reactive Strategies.

How do you address diversity and equality in the classroom? ›

To promote equality and diversity in your school, you should consider: Challenging negative attitudes amongst students. Avoiding stereotypes in curricular resources and examples. Setting clear rules regarding how people treat each other.


1. 28 Equality and diversity
(Train Aid)
2. The Difference between Diversity, Inclusion and Equity
(bhasin consulting inc.)
3. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education
(The Royal Irish Academy)
4. ODE Early Childhood: Fostering Diversity and Inclusion
(Ohio Department of Education)
5. What Diversity & Inclusion is REALLY About | Simon Sinek
(Simon Sinek)
6. Diversity And Inclusion
(Jason I am)
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