It is well-known that children learn their attitudes, including their racial attitudes, as young as three. They do notice different skin colours and research shows that white children are much more likely to be racially prejudiced than black children. They may even demonstrate racist behaviour at this early age.
If we don't want this to continue we must take every opportunity to work with our youngest children and their families - in playgroups, in nurseries, in schools and in our homes - before their attitudes become entrenched. We can no longer leave this important work to chance - a strategic approach to encompass all the necessary work and allocate responsibility for its implementation is essential.
The Government has given priority to the early years and requires development and childcare plans to devise an equal opportunity strategy.
Our organisation, Early Years Trainers Anti-Racist Network, has devised a framework for the implementation of racial equality in the early years and the Department for Education and Employment has sent a copy to every local authority. It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that young children are learning to be part of the value system of our society.
Jane Lane Co-ordinator, Early Years Trainers Anti-Racist Network 77 Baker Street, Reading, Berkshire