A LIGHT-HEARTED LOOK AT EQUALITY IN PRACTICE THROUGH THE EYES OF A SETTING MANAGER...
When you arrive at your setting you stick your head into each room to welcome staff in for the day and check everyone is happy with their roles and responsibilities. You notice that the picture board is looking a little sparse and remember that you’ve not sent home the letter requesting family pictures. You quickly read it through – it states, We would like to share stories about our families so please send in a picture of your child with their mummy and daddy and any siblings for us to include on our family display board. You quickly change this to: We would like to share stories about our families and would like to invite you to send in a picture of your child and any family members who are special to them to include on our family display board. That’s better, you’ve allowed for different types of families and avoided the assumption that all children will have a mummy and daddy.
Next, you welcome families as they drop off their children, using parent’s and children’s names as you greet them. You mispronounce Abduljalil and his mum corrects you – you apologise and repeat it correctly – and then ask Abduljalil to remind you if you ever get it wrong again and at the same time repeat his name ten times in your head…
Then you pop into the Butterflies Room and do a quick check that the resources they were using are gender inclusive – you thought you had noticed too much pink and blue previously, but you hadn’t had time to stop and look… While you are there Zofia, a child whose home language is Polish, is putting the day of the week onto a display board – she says, “Where is Poniedziałek?" You realise the days of the week offered are only in English and make a mental note to print and laminate words that include the languages spoken in the setting.
In the role play area you can hear a girl’s voice loudly saying, “No boys allowed – this is our beauty parlour and it’s only for girls.” You go over and ask what’s happening. Charlie wants to join in a game about hairdressing and two girls didn’t want him to. You explain that both men and women can go into beauty parlours and need hairdressers in the real world and talk about how excluding other people might make them feel. You manage to smooth this one over and, in fact, once the girls realise that Charlie is happy to sit for hours having his hair done, they are more than happy to let him in as a customer.
You wander over to the book corner searching for a couple of books which might help – you find ‘Our House’ by Michael Rosen and ‘Dogs Don’t do Ballet’ by Anna Kemp and put them aside for story time later. While you’re there you have a quick check – Did you finish sorting out the books yesterday when we were removing the older ones that had some stereotypical roles within them? Yes – you did. Now you just need to wait for your book order to arrive with new books depicting different families to include and your re-vamped book area will be complete, for now. You can never stop improving on practice!
In the construction area Hugo is playing with toy car and using words in his home language of Spanish and you hear another child say, “No, no, no, it’s a car!” You sit down next to the children and start pushing a car of your own. “Brummmm. My car is driving.” Then you ask Hugo, “How do I say car in Spanish? Is it coche? Car and coche – they mean the same!” You make the sign for ‘car’ as you say both words, and then make the sign for ‘same’.
At lunchtime a parent helper says, “Boys wash hands for lunch!” Before the stampede you quickly say, “I don’t think there’s room for everyone to go at once, how about children who are wearing green go first…” This avoids a crush in the toilets and avoids the gendered language. Then you quietly say to the parent, “We try to avoid grouping children according to gender.”
After lunch you settle a dispute between two girls who are role playing getting married… and they both want to be the bride. Another child had told them that there has to be a bride and a groom because when their Auntie Sue got married it was to a man who was called the groom. You take the opportunity to ask about Auntie Sue’s wedding and then say that sometimes women fall in love with men, like your Auntie Sue and sometimes women fall in love with other women and want to marry them instead of a man, and that’s OK. So of course, you can play weddings with two brides. They went off happily looking for some large pieces of material so that they could both have a veil.
You visit the Caterpillar Room before going to the office to do some paperwork. While you are there you notice that Sara is standing on the side-lines and watching the other children. Sara uses a walking frame and you wonder if she is unable to join the table-top activity because she can’t stand for very long. You ask her if she wants to join in and she nods enthusiastically. So you suggest that the activity is moved to the floor which removes the barrier for Sara and includes her in the activity.
From the office you can hear the children playing outside, which is lovely. Soon you hear Jacob crying because he can’t have a go on a bike and you quickly rush out and intervene because you hear an apprentice who was trying to cheer him up by saying, “Come on, boys don’t cry…” So you nip that in the bud and state clearly to the apprentice that we try not to stereotype, and then you tell Jacob, “It’s OK to feel sad and cry when you don’t get to have a go on the bike, we all get upset sometimes. Now let’s try to solve this problem, have you got any ideas?” Jacob asks Sam if he will let him have a go next if they use the sand timer and then decides to play with something else while he waits for Sam to finish. The apprentice says she’ll let them know when the sand has run out and they need to swap over. You return to your paperwork.
As children are picked up your receptionist attempts to make small talk with an older sibling who has arrived asking, “I wonder what your mum’s going to cook you for tea tonight?” You are about to address this loaded question when Mr Harris arrives with 18-month-old Zac in a pushchair to pick up Kyle and he notices his son is playing with the dolls and pram… Mr Harris begins to get irate, “I don’t want Kyle playing with girl’s toys, he’ll end up gay if he plays with dolls like that!” You take a deep breath and calmly say, “Mr Harris, Kyle thinks the world of you and he wants to be like you. Look, he’s playing with the doll and pushing the pram in the same way that you have arrived pushing Zac in the pushchair. He wants to be like you and I find your comments about him ending up gay disrespectful and discriminatory so I would appreciate it if you can avoid talking like this at our setting. Thank you.” Mr Harris is clearly taken aback and he goes into the room to collect Kyle. You take this opportunity to have a quiet word with your receptionist explaining the assumption made within her comment about mum cooking tea. Then, five minutes later, Mr Harris returns and apologises for overreacting and asks if you really think Kyle wants to be like him…
At this point you notice the time (nearly 5pm) and the apprentice is due to leave soon so you ask for a quick 5 minutes of her time before she goes in order to address the gender stereotype she fell into earlier. The conversation remains positive and the apprentice said she hadn’t really thought about the language she was using in that way.
You reflect upon the day you’ve had…. In the staff meeting you’re reviewing the Diversity and Equality policy…
6pm – Staff meeting – Thank goodness it’s equality training after the day you’ve had – at least you have lots of practical examples to share with the staff!