New perspectives on ‘social inclusion’ in early childhood

Published 07 September 2011

simstorbayMargaret Sims, Professor of Early Childhood at the University of New England, has added three books this year to a list of publications that the Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, has described as “very impressive”.

The Chancellor officially launched two of those books during a function at UNE last week. The two books are Social Inclusion and the Early Years Learning Framework, by Margaret Sims, and the second edition of Program Planning for Infants and Toddlers, by Margaret Sims and Teresa Hutchins (both published by Pademelon Press).

The Chancellor quoted from appreciative reviews of the books by Professor Sims’s peers, and reported that hundreds of copies of both books had been sold since their publication just a few months ago.

He congratulated Professor Sims on producing such “valuable resources for early childhood educators”, saying: “You are a wonderful credit to this University.”

The third book – Building Integrated Connections for Children, their Families & Communities, edited by Karl Brettig and Margaret Sims – was released just this week.

Social Inclusion looks at early childhood education in the light of the current national “Early Years Learning Framework” (EYLF) introduced by the Federal Government in 2009 for the guidance of early years professionals. A key message of the book is that “being different is part of being human, and we need to value that difference and not be frightened by it”.

“We need to acknowledge that people are different, and help children to identify those differences and talk openly about them,” Professor Sims writes. “Difference is not embarrassing, it is exciting.

“The EYLF asks us to have high expectations for each child, challenge practices that lead to inequities, and make curriculum decisions that promote inclusion and participation of all children.”

“Margaret develops her arguments for social inclusion in relation to the EYLF powerfully and logically step by step, and really does take the reader through a journey of understanding and enlightenment,” wrote one of the book’s reviewers. Another reviewer applauded the fact that “she challenges the standardised view of children’s development and the one-size-fits-all approach to teaching”.

“Inclusion” is also an underlying theme of Program Planning for Infants and Toddlers, which has the subtitle “In Search of Relationships”. The book provides a detailed blueprint for caregivers to ensure that young children develop meaningful relationships within the family and community, as well as with the physical environment.

Building Integrated Connections (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011) is a collection of papers that examine relationships within both the family and the community in the context of support provision for vulnerable families and their children. It addresses the need for a more integrated model of service provision for such families – a model that not only takes a holistic rather than a “siloed” approach to intervention, but also involves families themselves in the planning and provision of services.

Building Integrated Connections will be launched in Adelaide in October. Professor Sims said that the book would be used as the text for one unit of a new postgraduate course on Integrated Early Childhood Service Delivery that is being introduced at UNE next year.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Professor Sims and the Chancellor, Richard Torbay, displayed here was taken at last week’s book launch.