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How to reach high-quality early childhood education?

How to reach high-quality early childhood education? By supporting the teachers!

On 3 March 2021, ETUCE – the European Trade Union Committee for Education, took actively part in a European Commission high-level Conference on early childhood education (ECE). This event aimed at presenting and discussing the final report of the expert group on ECE set up by the European Commission within the ET2020 framework for policy cooperation in education and training. ETUCE participated in this expert group over the period 2018-2020, represented by Stig Lund (BUPL, Denmark). Composed of national experts and representatives of international organisations and social partners, the expert group had a particular focus on inclusion and staff development in ECE. Its work converged in a toolkit on inclusive ECE and a final report on how to recruit, train and motivate well-qualified staff.

Bringing the education trade union perspective at the launch of the report, ETUCE European Director, Susan Flocken, underlined the importance of increasing professional autonomy of the ECE teachers and staff, the need for more sustainable public funding to support high-quality professional development, as well as adequate working environment and infrastructures. She also welcomed that the report clearly mentions the importance of involving social partners at every stage of the political dialogue and policy-implementation process. In concluding her speech, she said “In the long-term, inclusion and quality of the ECE sector means free access to ECE services for all children and well-educated ECE staffat least with a bachelor’s degree. Looking at the future, the challenges will be to monitor the implementation, to value the diversity in education and to establish more cooperation between ECE professionals and research”.

The report emphasises the relationship between the attractiveness of the ECE teaching profession and the quality of the ECE sector. In this context, the expert group underlines that fair working conditions, more attractive salaries and reliable career pathways for ECE teachers and staff are crucial to improve the attractiveness of the profession and the recognition of the ECE sector. Although these notions are included within policy documents such as the Council Recommendation on high quality ECE (2019) and the European Quality Framework1, in reality, they are far from being implemented within the ECE systems. European data (OECD, Eurydice, Eurofound) mentioned in the report show that attractiveness and retention of highly-qualified personnel within the sector remain an urgent challenge, mostly due to unfair working conditions and salaries. The critical shortage of well-trained ECE personnel, the high rate of teachers leaving the profession and the lack of gender balance within the sector downgrade the status of the ECE teachers and staff, as well as the recognition of the ECE sector as an integral part of every country’s educational system. Amongst its conclusions, the report highlights that providing ECE staff with high-quality initial training and continuous professional development is of utmost importance to improve the quality of ECE.

The recording of the discussions can be found here

Read the news item of the European Commission about the event

1 “Improved working conditions, including more adequate wage levels, can make employment in ECEC a more attractive option for better-qualified staff, looking for proper careers.”