An equitable future

Making equality an integral part of the business model has become more important than ever as the sector tackles a recruitment crisis. Briony Richter finds out more from Gill Mason, head of training and development and Karen Seddon, compliance and risk manager at Kids Planet Day Nurseries

Since the pandemic, there’s been a significant shift in priorities for UK workers and it’s also worth mentioning that includes employers too. Flexibility and development have become key drivers for attracting the best talent and boosting wellbeing.

According to an ADP Research Institute report, ‘People at work 2022: A global workforce view’, More than two-thirds (68%) of UK workers would consider looking for a job elsewhere if they discovered their employer had an unfair gender pay gap or no equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy.

The report also highlighted that most businesses are positively responding to this and showcasing their EDI policies as part of their recruitment and training strategy.

You achieved the gold standard for the Committed to Equality (C2E) accreditation. How important is this to your team and wider communities?

We are committed to EDI, as reflected in our code of ethics and our core values running right the way through all of our policies, procedures and business relationships. We are thrilled to have been recognised for our incredibly high standards and look forward to improving even further, year after year.

For the team, the accreditation is affirming and reassuring, given that EDI is evident in their everyday working practices and relationships with parents and each other.

We hope our wider communities will also feel assured that their interests will be recognised and valued, whether they are new customers, new recruits or suppliers and contractors.

How have you embedded EDI policies into your recruitment and training process?

EDI is an integral part of all training and apprenticeships offered through our training academy, with specific learning materials and modules available to study. We are passionate about inclusion, respect and enabling all learners and staff to reach their full potential.

All learners and potential learners are valued equally and all staff receive training in EDI principles, legislation and issues on an ongoing basis. We ensure that everybody is fully aware of their responsibilities towards the promotion of equality and diversity and take account of the differing needs of individuals and groups in all activities.

On top of this, learners receive the opportunity to gain an enhanced understanding of equality and diversity as part of their training.

Are there any challenging aspect of implementing EDI strategies across the group?

There hasn’t been a standout challenge. We work hard to ensure that our values are well-embedded and that newly acquired nurseries are quickly involved and on board with our strategies and initiatives.

We find most people, even those new to the company, are eager to get involved and feel as passionate about EDI as the rest of us. Kids Planet gives them avenues for putting their own values into practice.

Can you detail some of the key areas that the Committed to Equality (C2E) review positively highlighted?

They looked for examples of how we vet contractors and suppliers, ensuring they have policies in place to demonstrate their own commitment to EDI, as well as to prevent modern slavery. They also looked at the high number of flexible working requests granted, as well as the quality of our employee benefits, including regularity of pay reviews and structures.

The auditors took a close look at our dedicated SEND team and our excellent internal SEND training which is accessible to all of the childcare team.

In a largely female-dominated industry, how have you promoted the sector to men and have you seen an increase in men joining Kids Planet?

As both an employer and main apprenticeship provider, we are acutely aware of the under representation of men and male apprentices in early years. Kids Planet training has championed a number of unique initiatives to support the recruitment of apprentices, for example, our Men Monday focus where we share exactly why men are suited to childcare and the diverse roles Kids Planet has to offer, and
our recent Men in Childcare project.

The Men in Childcare project was launched in 2020, when we successfully tendered for a Removing Barriers to Apprenticeships fund through Greater Manchester Combined Authority. From this we were able to deliver a project in partnership with MITEY (Men in the early years) and the Fatherhood Institute to recruit more male apprentices in early years within Greater Manchester.

We recognise that men are extremely poorly represented in the early years education workforce, making up just 3% of the total nationally. This lack of diversity is both a symptom and cause of gender stereotyping; looking after educating young children should be a job for everyone, not just women and we recognise we should be modelling this clearly to the children and families in our care.

Many lessons were learnt through this process which we have shared across our network, and we were delighted to be awarded a World Skills award for diversity in 2021.

Following this project, we took direct action to recruit even more men and launched our sports coach traineeship/ apprenticeship approach and are launching our Level 5 outdoor learning apprenticeship in the summer.

We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of recruiting more men into sports coach roles to support our nurseries, championed by existing male staff. Research clearly shows the importance of play, sport, exercise, and learning outdoors for children which has become even more pressing following the impact of lockdowns.

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