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Approaching Sanctuary through Inclusion and Antiracism

Acorn Nursery is a Brighton and Hove City Council nursery situated on the outskirts of the city in Mileoak. Brighton is already recognised as a City of Sanctuary. (photo) As a well-established nursery which opened in 1992, staff have always prided themselves on their inclusive practice, something they intended to further develop through the process of being recognised a Nursery of Sanctuary. Having heard about the opportunity to become a Nursery of Sanctuary through the Local Council’s Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) and with their guidance and the support of the nursery equalities representative, they started the process before the Covid-19 lockdown, purposefully opting to take a holistic and integrated approach to sanctuary.

The process of becoming a Nursery of Sanctuary began with staff taking advantage of training offered by the Brighton and Hove City Council to develop their understanding of inclusive practice by undertaking training on equalities, micro aggressions, unconscious bias and anti-racism.  Working from this, staff collaboratively developed an anti-racist pledge around which they intend to orientate their practice at the nursery.

Nursery staff then conducted a diversity walk alongside the EMAS team in which they critically reviewed the whole nursery environment and the experiences of children of colour within the nursery setting. This included looking at their displays and the organisation of resources to evidence their commitment to equalities and ensuring that they were effectively promoting the inclusion of protected groups. They reviewed the toys available in Home Corner in consultation with parent/carers to make sure they reflect the real-life objects in children’s homes, including the foods in the kitchen and the clothes and hair combs in the dressing up box.  They looked at the opportunities they provide children to value their similarities and difference and feel a sense of belonging.

Following this review, children were encouraged to share pictures of their immediate and wider family, their homes, bedrooms and pets and shared examples of the foods they eat at home to show the diversity of family and home contexts amongst children at the nursery. Children also took part in creative activities in which they drew pictures of themselves and their classmates and talked about their similarities and differences.

At the heart of inclusive practice at Acorn Nursery is ongoing, open communication with children’s families and parent/carers with whom staff work in partnership. In March, the nursery held their annual International Women’s Day event which brought together all the families connected with the nursery. They shared books and resources and a great conversation (particularly about isolation and emotions). They also signposted families to information about local groups and organisations that could support them, such as local women’s centres, bilingual family groups, domestic abuse shelters, Brighton and Hove Community Services and family information service amongst others. As part of their ongoing work, they are also collating testimonials from parents in their first language/s, talking about their time at nursery and the settling in process in order to further improve how they welcome newly arrived families and support them when they join Acorn Nursery.

Seth “ I like nursery. I like playing with the toys. It makes me happy”

Naomi (Mum of child) “ From my first viewing of Acorn I knew it was the nursery for us. Acorn staff are warm, welcoming and provide excellent communication and reassurance. My son is mixed race so I wanted to find a setting with multiple ethnicities and a setting which would support his identity, I have found Acorn a really inclusive setting, welcoming families of all ethnicities and all children regardless of their learning needs. My son has thrived at Acorn and I couldn’t be happier”

Iris’ Mum: You have all created such a kind, safe and happy space for her to learn about the world around her, make friends and have fun.

The Acorn Team add: “Being recognised for our sanctuary work helps us to purposefully embed inclusion and anti-racism in our mission and uphold our pledge to support families and their children in our local community and Brighton and Hove.”