Knowledge Hub

TOY for Inclusion: project results

Since 2017, TOY for Inclusion has opened eight Play Hubs in seven European countries: one in Belgium, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and two in Italy.

Thanks to the work of local communities and professionals, the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs provide opportunities for children and adults, Roma and non-Roma, to integrate and develop.

The project has been successful in fostering social inclusion for Romani young children and families, enhancing social cohesion and easing out the transition to primary school.

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Inclusion from the start: guidelines on inclusive early childhood care and education for Roma children

The publication is the fruit of joint collaboration between the Council of Europe and UNESCO, which are committed to supporting the well-being and flourishing of Roma children and their right to education and development from birth. It is a concrete follow-up to the recommendations arising from an expert meeting on “Toward quality education for Roma children: transition from early childhood to primary education” organised in 2007 by the two bodies. It is hoped that the Guidelines will incite greater attention to, and above all, appropriate actions for, young Roma children by providing clear policy and programmatic pointers to conceiving an inclusive early childhood care and education system.

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FEEL – Fostering Effective Early Learning study

The 2018 Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL) study focuses on the importance of quality, and how to strengthen it in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings. Extensive research demonstrates that the benefits of ECEC for children are increased when the service provider and educators are highly skilled and participate in professional development (PD), and the service is of high quality. Upskilling the workforce, including in-service professional development, is considered to be a key to improving quality, and can produce substantial and practical improvements for staff and children alike.

Building on the existing body of international research, the findings of the Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL) study, address the need for quality improvement in ECEC by showing how a particular form of evidence-based in-service PD can produce substantial and practically meaningful improvements in both staff practices and child outcomes. The FEEL study was conducted by the research team from Early Start, University of Wollongong, on behalf on the NSW Department of Education

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STEP – Family literacy project

The family literacy project (STEP 2015) investigated how family literacy initiatives might benefit mobile communities in Scotland through the design and implementation of three pilot programmes.

The pilot programmes ran in three different locations across Scotland with three groups of families: (1) Slovakian mothers in a Primary school in Glasgow, (2) Gypsy/Traveller families on a Traveller Person site in an educational outreach portacabin, Fife, and (3) with Gypsy/Travellers in a nursery/Primary school in the Highlands. The aim of the project was to identify approaches for programme delivery that would be relevant and meaningful to each specific community. For this reason, the structure and content of each pilot programme was designed in collaboration with participating families. Early consultation was achieved through a range of methods, such as informal social gatherings and activity sessions. The groups made suggestions that they felt would benefit their own situations and these were used to guide and structure the design of the activities.

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Responsible Management and Challenges of Inclusion in Multicultural School Environment in Slovenia

Although diversity is an opportunity to make schools more inclusive, creative and open-minded, inequality in education is highest among Roma and migrant children. Europe needs more efficient, but at the same time more inclusive and equitable education systems. In this respect, responsible school management has a key role in adapting learning environment to the specific mix of students and making it more inclusive.

In the research part, we provide an evaluation of the seminars delivered in Slovenia (RoMigSc project). Almost three fourths of the respondents reported previous experience with specific methods of integrating Roma and migrant children into the learning environment. Most of the participants were teachers, school counsellors, social workers, public administrators and civil society activists /volunteers.

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The role of professionals in promoting diversity and inclusiveness

In view of preparing children adequately for life in the 21st century eight key competences have been identified by the European Union. Among these competences are the ability to communicate in the mother tongue and cultural awareness and expression. This is in line with research evidence showing the importance of the heritage language and culture in
identity development, well being, mental health and school achievement. Hence, the role of professionals is pivotal in fostering cultural and linguistic awareness among children and promoting inclusiveness in the classroom or group. This review of the literature is meant to provide an initial theoretical framework concerning the role of professionals in dealing with cultural and linguistic diversity and promoting inclusiveness.

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What works guide – TOY for Inclusion

This guide documents the promising practices of the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Play Hubs, which support integration of Roma at local level. The practices and the accompanying recommendations are based on the evidence from the TOY for Inclusion project piloted in seven countries.
The guide is designed for practitioners and local authorities. It can assist them in the implementation of community-based ECEC services for Romani and other children to improve social cohesion. The guide also informs local, national and EU level policy-makers about how to use social and economic solidarity between cultures and generations to promote desegregation and inclusion.

The recommendations presented in the guide complement one another and are most effective when implemented simultaneously. Together the practices and recommendations provide clear guidelines for a systemic approach and sustainable local solutions in both policy and in practice.

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