If one thing has emerged during this summer of rioting across England, it is that we store up enormous problems if we do not celebrate the diversity of the society we live in.

While the rioting, at least on the surface, appears racial, it is noteworthy that it has consistently taken place in poor neighbourhoods where competition for work and status is rife.

What has this to do with childcare and early education?

One of our greatest poets said: "The child is father of the man."

In other words, adults are the products of their early childhoods.

While those of us working in childcare cannot effect rapid change in society as a whole, we can influence what happens in society in microcosm: within the nurseries, playgroups, preschools and out-of-school clubs.

There is a county-wide policy of equality of opportunity in education.

Nevertheless, many individual childcare settings are taking this further forward by writing their own equal opportunity policies.

Sitting down with their staff and, increasingly, with parents, they thrash out what is meant by equal opportunity and how a policy governing behaviour and actions can be written and acted upon for the good of all.

The guiding principle has to be that for a small community to flourish in harmony, there must be a culture of respect for everyone as an individual.

Only then can children and the adults who care for them develop their talents and become confident, compassionate and tolerant.

Each child is unique: the product of differences of race, culture, religion, gender and social class.

East Sussex, despite the perceptions of outsiders, is not a bland, exclusively white, middle-class county.

There are areas of deprivation and unemployment.

There is sometimes wide disparity in the experiences children bring into a nursery and there is no doubt that some children need to do a lot of catching up.

The early education curriculum was devised to ensure every child started on an equal footing, regardless of their background, physical or learning disability.

But equality of opportunity goes beyond that.

It is a celebration of uniqueness through difference.

That is why it is essential all our nurseries, playgroups, preschools and kids' clubs reflect what is going on in the community and that their staff, too, reflect the diversity of that community.

Parents instinctively understand that children must know who they are and what made them what they are.

This is one reason why children are so fascinated by what happened to mummy opportunity for children or daddy in what they call the olden days'.

Equal opportunities in childcare settings is an extension of that, where children learn about different religions and cultures.

Taking this one step further means you, the parents, getting more closely involved.

Already, childcare settings have keyworkers who develop a close, supportive relationship with small groups of children.

To ensure your child enjoys genuine equality of opportunity, make sure he or she is fully informed about your child.