ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Equality and Diversity in Early Childhood Care and Education(Barnardos, 2013) BarnardosThe Early Years Strategy (DCYA, 2013) states that respect for diversity, equity and inclusion are prerequisites for optimal development and learning. We know from research that children as young as two years of age are beginning to form their views about diversity and are developing both positive and negative attitudes to difference. Early years practitioners are well placed, therefore, to encourage respect for diversity in young children by actively providing all children with the opportunity to consolidate a secure sense of their own identities while also facilitating awareness of differences from others. In this issue of ChildLinks, Colette Murray from EDeNn discusses diversity and equality from an Irish perspective, looking at the need for a comprehensive approach to diversity and equality in ECCE (early childhood care and education) and raises questions for the early years sector regarding future work for social justice and inclusion. Clare Childcare Committee give an overview of The Pre-school Education Initiative for Children from Minority Groups, which is the first time that a common approach and belief set in relation to diversity and equality training for ECCE practitioners and services, had been delivered at a national level. The issue of diversity and equality is a global one, Louise Derman Sparks outlines the lessons that have emerged from the work of educators in USA and many other countries who have implemented the Anti-bias approach in diverse socio-political and cultural early childhood and care settings. Barnardos Early Intervention Service Finglas tell us how they ensure that Traveller children and families in the Finglas area receive needs-led services which enrich their lives through education and which support healthy development through valuing diversity. Diversity is not, however, confined to cultural issues. This issue of ChildLinks also looks at how educating children with special needs in ECCE is more about ‘catering for diversity’ than it is about addressing specific issues relating to a disability or special needs. Joanie Barron highlights the importance for early years practitioners to work hard to ensure that boys and girls are given equal opportunities in the preschool setting. One of our first abilities to distinguish differences in people is based on their gender and this sets the stage for one of the most difficult forms of discrimination to eradicate. The need for respect for the diversity of families in Irish societies and the importance of ensuring that they are all visible in the early years environment is also highlighted. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Implementation of Aistear(Barnardos, 2013) BarnardosThis issue of ChildLinks is focused on the theme of Aistear. Quality early childhood care and education and quality curriculum are intrinsically linked. That is why, in the aftermath of the recent Prime Time exposé of poor quality early years provision, Barnardos has called for Síolta and Aistear to be implemented in all services, over a five year period, supported by paid continuing professional development / non-contact time In addition, Barnardos has called for reform of the inspection system by: Making sure all inspectors are trained and have expertise in what to look for in terms of quality curriculum for young children. Imposing sanctions on any crèche that breaches regulations to make sure crèches improve on inspection. Linking public funding to quality for all age groups, not just children partaking in the free pre-school year. Barnardos has called for proper investment in the National Early Years Strategy to include: Making sure all childcare services are affordable and high in quality by providing State subsidies, linked to quality. Introducing minimum qualification requirements for all those who work in childcare facilities and make sure that this happens by putting a training fund behind it. Regulation of all childminders – anyone paid to mind children should be trained, vetted and subject to regulation and inspection. Investment in the National Vetting Bureau so that vetting can be done quickly for anyone working for children. It is encouraging to read in ChildLinks of so many accounts of innovative initiatives to implement Aistear. What is needed now is a comprehensive plan backed by resources to implement Aistear and Síolta on a strategic basis. It is time to say a resounding no to low investment and low quality early childcare provision. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Bullying(Barnardos, 2013) BarnardosBullying has been a problem for children for many years. Recent research has shown that it continues to be a major concern for children. The Growing Up in Ireland study found that 40% of children aged 9 reported being victims of bullying in the previous year. The EU Kids Online study reported that 23% of children in Ireland aged 9 to 16 years have experienced some form of bullying, both online and offline. Cyberbullying is an extension of traditional bullying. Most young people who are cyberbullied also experience traditional forms of bullying. Bullying is harmful to both victims and perpetrators and should always be taken seriously. Sadly, bullying tends to hit the headlines linked to very sad cases of child and youth suicide. This generally results in a flurry of media interest and promises by politicians. More recently there have been some significant initiatives taken in response to media attention and public pressure. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office consulted with children and published a report, Dealing with Bullying in Schools. The Department of Education and Skills convened an Anti-Bullying forum in 2012 and published an Action Plan on Bullying in January 2013. Time will tell whether this renewed focus on bullying in schools will make a difference. In the context of the early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector, bullying does not receive much attention. At the time of writing this editorial, discussion is focusing on the aftermath of the RTÉ Breach of Trust investigation. That programme featured children being bullied by early years staff whose role should have been to nurture and care for them. The ECCE sector needs to give attention to bullying as a potential issue, which may involve children, but also staff as perpetrators. The focus needs to be on anti-bullying policy and procedures, prevention and best practice. Children in our care deserve no less.