Nicola Fleury, Gemma Fletcher and myself were fortunate enough to participate in last night’s LGBTQIA+ Early Years magazine launch hosted on Zoom by Aaron Bradbury.
From the very start it was obvious that Aaron was passionate about better representation of diverse family groups and about supporting children and parents so that they are more visible and their voices heard.
The first edition of the magazine is the result of many long hours input by the steering group; each member equally as passionate in their belief that the different formats of family life should be celebrated. It’s articles don’t preach “what to do” and they alongside Aaron’s inspiring welcome to the event confirmed that the magazine aims to promote, showcase, create confidence via discussion with staff, children, families and the wider community via informed research and improved practice.
Lucy Rae shared her story with us; making us aware that everyone has the right to be accepted and included irrespective of their gender identity now, more than ever and whatever positive steps have been taken, they are just that and that the journey is only part completed. Lucy, as author of Stonewall’s Getting Started Toolkit for Early Years published in December 2017 has provided us with an invaluable resource to address the issue and meet the demands of our children and families with clarity and confidence. Her thought provoking suggestion that television programmes need to be more representative of all families rather than the atypical Mum, Dad, two children and a dog, or even Peppa Pig. She drew our attention to current concerns and nervousness in the sector on how to motivate and enthuse our colleagues about the variations of ‘my family’ so that all children can make their own life choices and achieve their potential greatness, irrespective of gender stereotypes of what a male or female should look and behave like. In removing those restrictions our children and their families have limitless opportunities to enjoy life’s journey.
Lucy was realistic in conveying that it won’t be an easy ride and that to raise awareness and visibility requires more than tokenism and merely being kind. At an early age children notice the similarities and also differences in family dynamics and therefore should be encouraged and enthused to celebrate them in a safe and secure environment, and anything less will just exacerbate the prejudice they already face. The celebration needs to be continuous as part of everyday practice… second nature and not short term to have any real impact. Lucy was also mindful that we will face a range of views and must respect and challenge them as we have a great responsibility towards our children and their families. It is our job to educate; people don’t know what they don’t know until you tell them open up their minds and give them a greater window to look out of. Her ultimate message is not all families are the same, and for us to be a fully inclusive sector we need to share everyone’s experiences.
Next up was Laura Henry-Allain MBE. She shared her experience of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community from a young age, accompanying her mother who worked at London Lighthouse in the early days of AIDS treatment and the misconceptions that ensued due to ill informed and poor communication. She worked in a crèche with families and has published a number of works for Early Years CPD to widen understanding of the issues that the community face and improve practice. Her passion and enthusiasm shattered the screen as she urged us to not make assumptions, celebrate all family types – not just Mothers Day and Fathers Day but to show that families have evolved by celebrating Pride events too. She reassured us that although Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a hard journey along a long road – and that we will face many uncomfortable conversations – it must be done to make lives better for our children, their families and the wider community.
Matt Arnerich from sponsors Famly accredited the steering group for their hard work in launching the magazine and also discussed the various articles, blogs, videos and interviews that form part of the Famly app and stated that now, during the pandemic, than ever, that we must unite and support each other as allays, and the world is not just made up of white, heterosexual males. Matt also asked for more contributions for the Wednesday blog on Famly!
Tamsim Grimmer spoke eloquently about her experience as a member of the steering group and that she joined as a parent and also as an Early Years consultant. She recognised that the sector still has some serious bridges to build in terms of addressing gender issues and that she willingly contributed by writing an article for the magazine.
Claire Francis echoes what has been said by the previous keynote speakers and also shared her personal experiences of being on the receiving end of abuse and inequality. She is now on the third year of a degree in education and hopes to work with the sector to address and challenge the issues so that the next generation doesn’t have to face such negativity that remains with them mentally throughout their lives. Her powerful statement that ‘children are not born with stereotypical views – they’re learnt behaviours’ certainly hit home. Claire advocates that by working cohesively together with meaning and focus, we can open up dialogue without judgement.
Aaron returned to the launch event by advising us that the magazine is now available to download on the website lgbtqearlyyears.org and encouraged us to share it with our colleagues and families within settings and the wider community. It contains case studies, written articles and others that can be accessed via QR codes to allow us to reflect professionally and personally with the aim of improving practice and support others in the sector.
Aaron didn’t just tell us about the new magazine; he also encouraged us to look online at the lgbtqearlyyears.org website as it contains numerous resources (free and payable), blogs, information about the steering group, details about fundraising via Go Fund Me and a dedicated page to the LGBTQIA+ Awareness Week containg activities, daily reads, daily interactions. To celebrate this event Aaron highlighted the competition to win £50.00 of resources. What more of an incentive to get involved do we need?
Darren Matthews BA (Hons), MA (Hons), PGCE
Quality Manager (Teaching, Learning and Staff Development)
The Kidzrus Group