Ninety staff involved in the Peace IV Sharing from the Start Project attended two-day peer cluster sessions focusing on the implementation of The Media Initiative for Children Respecting Difference programme (MIFC). These sessions were facilitated across NI and the border counties from October ‘19 to January ’20, with extra sessions planned to accommodate demand. The use of interactive activities in day one provided opportunities for practitioners to reflect on their own values, attitudes and prejudices. Day two enabled the exploration of MIFC resources, with time for participants to reflect on how the materials could be used to enhance the NI and ROI preschool curriculum and to support the implementation of SFS shared sessions.
The MIFC is an evidence- based intervention programme aimed at improving long term outcomes, so that children, staff, parents and communities become more aware of diversity and difference issues, with the anticipated outcome being that ‘young children will respect those who are different’. The implementation of this programme in the 45 nursery and preschool settings will enhance the outcomes currently being promoted by the Sharing from the Start, ‘to improve educational outcomes and cross-community cohesion, inclusion and diversity through Shared Education’.
One of the key elements of all successful early childhood programmes is a strong partnership between the early childhood settings and parents. Paul Connolly, 2002 stated “As parents and guardians we have an important role to play in combating prejudice and discrimination among our children. We are the most significant and influential people in our children’s lives” (Fair Play Booklet, Barnardo’s). The delivery of parent’s workshops, as an element of the MIFC programme, will help build parents own confidence in dealing with diversity issues with their own children at home. They will also support practitioners and parents to work together towards successful implementation of the MIFC.
An integral part of the Sharing from the Start programme is the provision of training to preschool teachers that develops capacity to facilitate shared education. In line with the Shared Education Framework peer cluster sessions have been facilitated to empower and support staff in shared education, and evaluations from the training demonstrated how this had been achieved. “We have very limited opportunities for professional development and feel so lucky to be able to access this through Sharing from the Start”, “Today made me think about what difference it makes for parents to be involved”, “Implementing the MIFC, alongside the SFS will build a solid foundation for our children to grow and develop in so many ways”, “excellent session, lots of opportunities to discuss, reflect and ultimately improve on my delivery of the MIFC programme”.