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Exploring the Evolving Landscape of Equality Diversity and Inclusion in the UK

The UK in the 2020s is diverse, multicultural and constantly changing. Although most British people still fall into the category of “white British” at 74.4% (2021 census), this percentage has gone down since 2011, from 80.5% to 74.4%. The Government website reports the Asian group as 9.3% of the population followed by black (4.0%), mixed (2.9%) and other (2.1%) ethnic groups. Within these classifications, however, there are many sub-groups such as Travellers, Africans and Irish, to name a few. In fact, there are 19 standardised ethnic classifications on the census form. This highlights the significance of embracing equality diversity and inclusion in our changing society.

The census revealed other changes too – for the first time in England and Wales, only 46.2% (less than half) of the population described themselves as “Christian”, down by 13.1%. Over one third of the population sited “No religion”.

What about sexual orientation? In the census, 92.5% of respondents aged 16+ answered questions on this topic, with approximately 90% of those identifying as straight or heterosexual. 1.5 million people identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexual orientation (LGB+). Others identified as pansexual, asexual and queer.

But why do we collect these statistics and what relevance do they have to early years? The answer lies in understanding whether this diversity is accurately reflected in our everyday media and culture, and the opportunities we all have access to. Do we see an inclusive example of diversity represented on TV, in our law enforcement agencies, or in our schools and hospitals? Are the top jobs really available to different groups of people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs? If the answer to THAT question is ‘no’, then we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that there are equal opportunities for everyone, and people can see themselves reflected in every area of society.

The Rise of EDI Issues

It’s not that long ago that schools were directing young male students into traditional ‘male’ activities such as woodwork and metalwork, whilst filtering off the girls to do typing and home economics. Thankfully those times have changed, and whilst there are more women in science for example, or more males in early years work, there is still a lot more that can be done.

For many companies nowadays, having effective policies related to equality diversity and inclusion is vital as it allows them to set up, measure and judge their efforts, identifying areas of success and also areas for improvement. Another reason is that research shows that organisations that are strong on diversity, produce benefits in their bottom-line profits.

Understanding Equality Diversity and Inclusion

Understanding the difference between equality diversity ans inclusion is key, although there are still philosophical and legal debates about them.

Diversity

This relates to the differences between people, such as ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, or married status. It’s about recognising what makes us all unique.

Equality

This means recognising and responding in a fair way to everyone regardless of diversity. One website says:
“First used in the early 15th century, equality is ‘the state of being equal’. In modern usage in the UK, equality is about ensuring equality of access, treatment, outcomes and impact in both employment and service delivery. It is rooted in ideas of justice and fairness and enshrined in the United Kingdom Equality Act 2010 (EA10) which highlights that every individual must have an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of their background, personal identity or experience.” Equality also relates to how we handle discrimination and prejudice related to diversity which then affects:

Inclusion

This is “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups.”

When these issues are not pro-actively and positively addressed, then there is potential for prejudice, racism, homophobia and all manner of negative outcomes for some sections of society. A report by the Equality Human Rights Commission in 2018 found that:

  • 54% of people from ethnic minorities reported they had been a victim of ethnic or racial prejudice
  • 46% of lesbian, gay or bisexual people said they had experienced prejudice based on their sexual orientation
  • 44% of respondents stated they were openly negative about Gypsy, Roma and Travellers
  • 29% of respondents stated that they felt strong discomfort with the idea of a connection to a family member with a mental health condition
  • 25% of disabled people with a physical impairment reported they experienced prejudice because of their impairment

So, best practice with equality diversity and inclusion EDI aims to redress some of the imbalances and prejudices in our society and make sure that everyone has an equal chance of thriving.

What Does This Mean For Early Years Practitioners and Settings?

Children form opinions early on, many of which are based on observing adults around them. If an adult fears wasps, then the chances are that the child may ‘learn’ to fear wasps too. This is also true of attitudes and behaviours, so it is important that early years children are exposed to positive role models and positive attitudes about equality diversity and inclusion issues.

Things that settings can do:

  • Ensure you write a policy for equality diversity and inclusion issues that sets out how your setting will address these including how you will pro-actively promote a positive approach to these issues, and how you will tackle prejudice and inequality
  • Conduct an audit into how EDI issues are being addressed (or not) in your setting – there are some free resources on the internet (See https://www.theequalgroup.com/education-hub-home for more information)
  • Train all staff in Equality Diversity Inclusion issues and regularly revisit this and tackle any discretions so that the message is consistent
  • Engage parents in things surrounding EDI. You could get involved in awareness days or invite people in to talk about different cultures
  • Pro-actively encourage participation in different activities for all genders in all subjects to counteract some of the gender stereotyping that still exists in society
  • Challenge stereotypes and assumptions - read the children stories about different cultures, inspiring people who have achieved great things from different backgrounds such as people with SEN focusing on their achievements
  • Normalise and celebrate difference so that it becomes embedded in your culture
  • Tackle any bullying issues with a strong and robust protocol
  • Record and measure your efforts so that you can revise and improve them and provide evidence of your setting’s actions

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