Is it easier to be inclusive in Early Years? By Hayley Smith

3rd October 2017

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Settings which educate and care for children in their earliest years are governed by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. The EYFS places a lot of emphasis on child led learning and learning through play. Because of this, I would suggest that teaching and learning opportunities are continuously differentiated and, therefore, settings can be more easily inclusive.

Where each child leads their own learning, it is likely that they will learn in ways suitable to their own personal learning style and at a pace which is appropriate for them. Most often it is the role of the adults in Early Years settings to promote opportunities for learning by providing new and different experiences in an enabling environment. In such an environment, children are allowed and encouraged to follow their own interests and curiosity.

Whilst the EYFS curriculum actively promotes differentiation through its concepts of ‘a unique child’ and ‘an enabling environment’, there is also a small element of standardisation in the ‘learning and development’ section. Along with supporting children’s learning through play and experiences, it is also the responsibility of Early Years practitioners to monitor the development of children in their care and ensure that it is progressing in all areas at an appropriate rate.

Differentiation of teaching plays a big part if any children are not reaching their expected stage of development in any particular area. In those circumstances it can rely on the skills and ability of that child’s key person, and other practitioners in their setting, to provide additional learning opportunities and experiences in the necessary area. It is important that the environment continues to offer choices for the children, but these choices can be influenced by practitioners to favour a particular outcome or area of learning and development.

In contrast to the more prescriptive, often whole-class, learning environment of key stage classrooms, Early Years settings have more flexibility and freedom to adjust their day to suit the needs of each individual child. However, as children move towards the end of their Early Years, and prepare to transition from EYFS to Key Stage at the end of their Reception year, it is important that practitioners support their children and prepare them for the transition into Key Stage and the associated level of expectation.

Inclusion is very possible, and increasingly present, in Key Stage classrooms but my personal feeling is that the curriculum does not lend itself to it as easily as EYFS does. Due to this, I believe there can be more pressure on Key Stage teachers to actively differentiate their practice in order to accommodate and support an increasingly diverse range of pupils in their classes.

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