Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce in Europe
The recently released, second edition of Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe charts the progress made in the key quality areas identified in the Council Recommendation on High Quality ECEC Systems, across 38 European countries (43 education systems) participating in the EU's Erasmus+ Programme.
Special attention is given to the ECEC workforce, since it is widely acknowledged that the quality of the staff is linked to the quality of services, the quality of interactions between children and staff and subsequently to children’s developmental outcomes.
The first section of the chapter about the ECEC workforce focuses on the education, training and support for staff working in the sector, whereas the second section deals with child-staff ratios and group sizes.
As far as qualifications and continuing education are concerned, the report highlights that:
- Qualification requirements for core practitioners are usually lower for those working with younger children than those working with older children
- In the majority of education systems, assistants may be employed without an initial qualification in ECEC
- Heads of ECEC settings are usually qualified at Bachelor's level or higher
- In one third of European countries, heads of settings for older children must have specific training and previous professional experience
- In most countries, childminders working in regulated home-base provision must have some form of training
- In only seven education systems, an induction phase is compulsory for all ECEC staff
- Only five education systems have made continuous professional development mandatory for all staff
Turning to ratios and group sizes, the report revealed that: 1) the maximum number of children per staff member more than doubles between the ages of 2 and 4; and 2) childminders in regulated home-based provision usually look after a maximum of four or five children under age 3.
The analysis highlights that the field is still characterized by incoherence and discontinuity both in terms of ECEC services and in terms of professional preparation of the personnel, since it reveals divisions between staff categories, staff working with different age groups and between different types of services within the ECEC sector. Although some countries have moved towards integrating the education and childcare services, as well as the professional preparation system for the personnel, more work needs to be made towards: integrated ECEC governance structures, a harmonized initial preparation and induction and equal opportunities for professional development and career progression, with the ultimate goal to improve the quality of services to better meet children's needs in a holistic way, and to ensure a well-qualified ECEC workforce with a strong professional identity.
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