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ECS Students Prepare To Celebrate ‘Face Equality Day’

As a vital component of the Year 1 ECS module on Child Development, students investigate “Atypical Physical Development in Children”.  One element of this is the importance of ‘facial equality’, which allows everyone to feel more confident about their appearance, perhaps their unusual appearance.  This year’s Facial Equality Day is on Wednesday 23rd May 2018, which will launch a year of campaigning and actions across the UK specifically for children and young people with visible differences. 

Every year, around 15,000 children in the UK are born with a disfigurement, and many more acquire a disfigurement during their childhood.  86,000 children are estimated to have a disfigurement - 1 in 124 in the under 16 school population.  Whilst a ‘severe disfigurement’ is classed as a disability in the Equality Act (2010), it is important to note that the presence of a disfiguring condition does not mean that the child has any learning difficulty or cognitive impairment, nor very often any physical impairments either.  The discrimination they face, according to research carried out by Changing Faces (2017), arises through attitudes and behaviours of other people, who find it hard to envisage a successful and happy future for a child with a disfigurement.  Schools, colleges and universities must ensure that disfigurement is included in their anti-bullying and equality policies, which should lead to clear, positive perceptions of children with disfigurements as part of both school and wider communities. Teachers and all school staff including teacher training providers should receive facial equality training to build their knowledge, skills and confidence so that all appearance prejudice is responded to and addressed and discrimination is stamped out. Face equality should be included in the school curriculum and children and young people taught that inclusive environments have respect for face equality. 

With an awareness of our culture’s relentless focus on appearance and the huge pressure on us all to look good, the ECS students decided to create their own diverse facial masks while discussing simultaneously their attitudes and ideas about appearance, disfigurement and about being inclusive in our diverse society.  Designing ‘their own face’, gave them an unusual appearance and allowed them to imagine feeling vulnerable to being seen as ‘different’, to staring and invasive questions, to hostility or avoidance and how they may need extra support while in school to feel more confident about appearance and unusual appearance.

Dr Brenda Mc Kay-Redmond, Child Development module co-ordinator, feels that “If you are involved in the education of young children you need to know about appearance and disfigurement.  All staff need a basic understanding of the main psychological and social issues that arise when a child has a disfigurement.  We need to be able to anticipate the curiosity and the questions that children will experience and to prepare responses which will be socially positive for everyone.  Learning activities and resources enable all children and young people, including my students, to have effective interventions to address appearance anxieties and move beyond stereotypes.”

There are lots of ways for schools to get involved in Face Equality Day on the 23rd May,  both in the weeks leading up to #FaceEquality and on the day itself.  Individuals, organisations, companies and schools can sign the Face Equality Pledge.  www.changingfaces.org.uk provides more information, ways to get involved and how to show your support.

Happy Facial Equality day from all ECS degree students at Stranmillis!

  

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