We live in a diverse society and our course prepares students to work with families with different backgrounds, contexts and needs. Over the past few turbulent months, there have been more discussions over equality and diversity within society. Katie Crouch, Senior Lecturer in Early Years, reflects on how these conversations will influence some of the modules she teaches in the next academic year.

This year seems to have really started some much-needed conversations regarding equality, equity and inclusion. Now as a white, straight person, I am well aware of my poor positioning to write a piece about equality. However, it is a significant factor which is embedded in my heart and soul due to the people around me who I love dearly. Therefore, would my silence continue to perpetuate injustice?

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“As I start to think about composing the schemes of work for some of our modules, I reflect upon the current events across the UK and internationally. My leadership of some of the modules we teach within our degree programme help to support Norland’s quest for social justice. This is something which we are continuously working on to strengthen our programme, not just in terms of its anti-discriminatory content, but also to explore how we can ensure we support students, children and their families in a proactive way.”

This year has led me to explore my own white privilege, something which I have been coming to terms with. Yes, I can walk into a shop and buy make up, clothing and plasters in my skin tone without having to look very far. When I am out running during the dark evenings, I am not automatically judged as threatening because of my appearance. When my family leave our home, I know that they are not going to be attacked or commented on, just because of other people’s perceptions of skin colour. Peers won’t refuse to be friends with them because of melanin pigment in their skin. When my children were growing up, they could see themselves represented within education, music, media, and films. They didn’t need to look for their representation within crayons, paints, literature and storybooks. This has been a small part of my white privilege, and this is something which I intend to find out more about from people around me.

To our students, families and children who have experienced inequity, inequality and lack of inclusion due to being a person of colour, I am sorry for the injustices you have experienced in our world. Thankfully, times are changing. There is now more and more representation in the world, especially in the world of early years. We will celebrate and champion this. I will never know the true extent of your experiences; however, I will learn from you and I stand with you!

June marks Pride month: an opportunity for people who identify as being LGBTQIA+ to celebrate who they are. Why should this be restricted to a month? How you identify and who you love does not define your worth. It should not and must not dictate your accessibility to the automatic rights given to straight men and women. The abolition of Section 28 is something we study in modules and the disparity in legislative support that families and individuals face.

I am aware that I can go out and hold hands with my husband without fear of name-calling or reprisals. I can be free in talking about the people I love without fear of offending or upsetting someone. However, I know that this is not the case for all. To love and be loved is a basic human right. No person should be excluded from this right or have to be a suppressed version of themselves to appease others.

To our students, families and children who have experienced inequality, inequity and lack of inclusion due to who they identify as or who they love, I am sorry for the lack of tolerance and acceptance which you may have encountered in this world. We will champion you. We will celebrate who you are as individuals and as families. I will never know the true extent of your experiences; however, I will learn from you and I stand with you!

We are learning more and more. We are learning that it is ok to not be ok. We are learning about how the perception of mental health is also gradually evolving. We have services in place to support students who may be struggling with trigger points throughout the year, such as Togetherall.

We look at how we can support families and children who may be impacted by aspects of mental health. We talk about mental health. In our small academic groups, we can share our experiences in sessions, our fears and our questions without fear of judgement or acceptance, and we listen. To our students, families and children, we stand with you!

It is imperative that we learn it is healthy to talk about all of these aspects openly, with respect and acceptance. Even if it feels like it is not our place to do so. After all, it is us that will go out and shape the future of the families and children we work with. We have the opportunity and responsibility to nurture our world into becoming a more aware and accepting place. But until that happens, I will stand with you!

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