In Athens early years education is not only a crucial support to the development of children, it also acts as a social structure to help the community. We visited a nursery in the 33rd district of Athens which had a number of refugee children. All children in Athens are offered a free place at nursery from 6 months, and refugee children are no different. The nursery is open from 7am to 4pm, with the majority of children arriving between 7 and 9am. Some children will be in for 2 hours, others longer but there is a flexible approach to time spent in nursery to allow parents to work or access community services.
There are many similarities between the Greek and Glasgow early years establishments. There is an emphasis on inclusion with the majority of children who have ASN being included in day to day life. As with Glasgow only a few children would be supported outwith mainstream. The play rooms are arranged according to chronological age and have a range of resources to support play. There is an emphasis on outdoor play including a covered area but to keep out the sun in Greece, instead of the rain in Glasgow!
Another feature of the nursery is the dining room. Eating is a social time and the children are encouraged to sit together to enjoy the Mediterranean diet.
Children of refugees are welcomed in the nursery. There can be many nationalities in a class. The enrolment process of refugee children is very important, not only to help settle the children into nursery but to help identify need. The children are assessed by the GP before coming to nursery. Once the children are in nursery they can be assessed by other services if required. Nursery staff work hard to ensure good communication between parents and staff. We saw a good example of a welcoming resource to use during enrolment which had key phrases in different languages to help educators communicate more effectively with parents.
Our next visit is to a refugee camp to help us understand more about how children are supported to enter education when they enter Athens.