High quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is an essential foundation for children’s wellbeing, lifelong learning, social integration, personal development. However, research suggests that the considerable and growing disparities in access to quality education and increasing segregation in European schools start at a very young age. Children between 0 and 6 years old with a migrant, minority or marginalized background often suffer exclusion from ECEC services and segregation, or they are placed in lower-quality services. This has a detrimental effect on young children (and their families) in terms of their wellbeing, rights, development, and it weighs on their future.
In the last two years, the European project ‘TOY for Inclusion’ tried to find innovative solutions to these challenges by developing community based ECEC services for/with Roma and non-Roma children and families in seven European countries (Belgium, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia). The aim of the project, coordinated by ICDI (International Child Development Initiatives) and financially supported by the European Union and the Open Society Foundation, is to improve social inclusion of Romani young children and families, enhance social cohesion and ease the transition to primary school. VBJK is the Belgian partner in this project.
In each country TOY for Inclusion developed contextualized pilot actions, called Early Childhood Play Hubs. These are designed and run by multi-sectoral teams composed by representatives of communities, school and preschool teachers, health services, parents, local authorities and other organisations. Play Hubs mobilize local communities around young children and families and organize intergenerational inclusive activities involving older adults with and without Roma background. Activities can take place in the Hubs but also in other settings in the communities, such as community centres, libraries, parks, squares, preschools, health centres ... The Play Hubs are also places in which parents and grandparents can visit with their young children/grandchildren to borrow toys and books, and at the same time access information about other child and family-focused services and events in the community.
In Belgium in particular, the pilots focused on involving Roma and non-Roma children and families in inclusive activities as well as on building a network of organizations and local authorities willing to work on social inclusion and early childhood education and care in Ghent.
This Final Conference will present the experiences of all countries involved and promote a critical-constructive discussion amongst participants, on how to concretely invest on inclusive ECEC and social cohesion through community based initiatives.
To know more about TOY for Inclusion, please visit www.toy4inclusion.eu
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