VALUE – Value Diversity in Care and Education is a three year (January 2018 – August 2020) Forward Looking Cooperation Project co-funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme undertaken by a consortium of partners from different countries: Belgium, Slovenia, Portugal and Denmark.

Access to high quality, affordable early childhood education and care for young children (ECEC) is beneficial for all children and especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as means to enhance equal opportunities.

One of the main challenges today is to create inclusive ECEC services that can tackle social inequality and exclusion: therefore, services should be adapted to the needs of diverse children, families and local communities. The context of complex multi-diverse societies in which we live, asks for services whom encourages participation, strengthen social inclusion and embraces diversity.

Working in context of diversity asks for a collaborative approach

Inclusive ECEC services asks for a collaborative approach in which different practitioners involved in the care and learning process of young children work and learn together. In most European countries not only preschool teachers or pedagogues (the ‘core’ practitioners) work with children and families. Many other practitioners are directly involved in the care and learning process, e.g. teacher-assistants, childcare workers, Roma assistants, special needs assistants, … Especially in large cities, these ‘assisting’ practitioners tend to have more an ethnic-minority background or a lower socio-economic position in society. In other words, their inclusion in ECEC adds diversity to their teams.

This existing diversity within the ECEC workforce can be an important resource in creating inclusive practices. In order to use this as a resource, we need to overcome some challenges. From the recently published NESET II study (European Commission, 2016) we know that these ‘assisting’ practitioners are often not involved in planning and professional development activities.

VALUE: valuing diversity in care and education

VALUE focusses on strengthening the collaboration between all ECEC practitioners involved in the care and learning process of young children, valuing the divers background and experience of ECEC practitioners. Special attention is payed to the role and position of assisting practitioners: how to strengthen their professional role and identity? How to involve them in professional development and planning time?

In other words, VALUE is all about valuing diversity in care and education: valuing diversity in the collaboration between ECEC practitioners will help us to address better the learning and care needs of diverse children, families and communities.