Promoting inclusion and diversity
Promoting inclusion and diversity matters because we all want equality of opportunity for our GBP children, and for all our children to be the best they can be. We teach our children to acknowledge difference to be able recognise the support that different people may need. If we ignore someone’s skin colour, for example, we are ignoring the experiences that have made them who they are. Understanding and celebrating (not just tolerating) differences of all kinds helps build our children’s self esteem and promotes a fairer and more equal society, which in turn supports their development, education and wellbeing.
At GBP, we want to be part of this celebration - to help all children at our school feel valued and respected. To help them learn to respond in a kind and fair way to everyone, regardless of shape, size, age, ability, gender, skin colour, nationality, beliefs, language, culture, family background and so on. Learning to appreciate and celebrate differences is an important skill. In school each Autumn 2 term, our PSHE sessions and Love of Day is all about Celebrating Difference.
What can we do to help our children develop further?
Talk about diversity a need answer questions
We know that babies as young as 6 months old can recognise differences in the faces of their carers, and that by the time they are 2, children begin to notice skin colour and gender differences. So it’s natural to be curious and notice differences and it is good to all about them. We chat about diversity with our children from when they start in EYFS and encourage our parent community to do so from an even younger age. We explain how everyone is different and that’s a positive thing. It’s good to have some things in common with our friends but also to respect differences too. If children ask our teachers and LSAs tricky questions, we try to answer them as openly and accurately as we can using language that our children can understand. We build on this knowledge as they move through our school and we encourage our parents/carers to do the same too. If a child says something discriminatory, we try hard to not overreact, but not ignore it either. The key is to respond in a non-judgemental way using phrases such as: ‘Let’s talk about this for a short while… ‘or we say, ‘What do you think made you say that?’
Being a good role model
Our children’s most important role models.: In first place - parents/carers and in joint 2nd - teachers and LSAs. If we want our children to grow up to be kind and empathetic, we as a whole school community need to show tolerance for ageism, sexism, racism and so on. If someone makes a rude or inappropriate comment, our children need to see us speaking up to counteract prejudice and stereotyping when it occurs. Using someone’s skin colour, religion, gender, culture, appearance, nationality, sexuality, age, language or family background as an insult or as part of a ‘joke’ can have a profound effect. Allowing it or joining in with ‘jokes’ at someone else’s expense creates a society where that behaviour is seen as acceptable and may pave the way for ridicule, name calling, bullying, suspension and even more serious forms of discrimination.
Being careful with words
It isn’t hard to change words we use, especially when we know certain words and phrases can be extremely harmful to individuals and also shape society’s perception of certain groups. People should not be defined by their differences or disabilities, so for example, we talk about someone being ‘on the autism spectrum’ rather than being autistic. People who have disabilities, not the disabled and remember that a child who has parents with different skin colours or parents with the same skin colour but different nationalities is of ‘mixed heritage’. Children learn words from friends, families and teachers/LSAs. So if we hear our children using offensive, derogatory or outdated terms, we pick up on it gently but quickly and explain that the term is unkind or even rude.
We encourage our children to look for positives in themselves and in others, for example, if our children are in the same year group with a child who uses a mobility aid, they might point out that ‘Lily can’t walk very well.’ This is a chance for our staff to to ask, ‘What is Lily good at?’ And find out that Lily is great at drawing and making. It’s important that our children learns to see what Lily can do rather than what she can’t. We might also use the opportunity to encourage our children to be helpful to others (in a respectful way) with the things that are tricky for them. We remind our children that when they have difficulties, it makes them feel good when others offer to help.
Encourage empathy and kindness
The ability to imagine how other people are feeling is an important skill for our children to develop. Reading all kinds of stories with diverse characters, and talking about what the characters might be feeling, is a very good way to build empathy. We have invested heavily in ensuring we have a wide range of books for our children to learn from and enjoy. We also need to be a good role model here. When we have respectful relationships and interactions with others in a kind and caring way, our children learn from our example.
It’s a sad fact that children who behave differently or look different in some way from their peers still all too easily become targets for bullying, especially as they get older. We talk to our children a lot about differences - it’s important to address why hurting another person’s feelings on purpose is always wrong. If our children hurts another child’s feelings - we remind them of their responsibilities (part of our behaviour code) and we teach them to apologise, outlining why they are sorry too. We ask them how they would feel if someone said or did something similar to them. This helps them to understand that all people have feelings and all people matter. All people deserve to be treated with kindness… and respect (one of our GBP values and we mention it almost daily at GBP).