Professionalisation of childcare assistants in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)
Pathways towards qualification : executive summary. NESET II AR1/2016
There is a broad consensus among researchers, organizations and policy makers that the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC), and ultimately the outcomes for children and families, depends on well-educated and competent staff. At the European level, the importance of a qualified workforce is acknowledged in the revised priorities for the strategic cooperation in the field of education and training (European Commission, 2015a); it identifies professionalisation of staff as one of the key issues for further work in ECEC. Several studies and reports have underlined that quality in... ECEC is dependent upon competent staff who are capable of working within a holistic framework, that understand the concepts of ‘care’ and ‘education’ to be interdependent and on equal footing (UNESCO, 2010; European Commission, 2011; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014) (see the section ‘Holistic approach’ in the Introduction). The European Quality Framework for ECEC (EC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014) underlines the contribution the ECEC workforce makes towards enhancing the pedagogical quality of services for young children. The European Quality Framework for ECEC is the consensus of representatives from 25 EU Member States, plus Turkey and Norway, the Eurydice Network, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and the OECD. It states that ‘recognizing the ECEC workforce as professionals is key. Professional development has a huge impact on the quality of staff pedagogy and children’s outcomes. Developing common education and training programmes for all staff working in an ECEC context (e.g. preschool teachers, assistants, educators, family day carers etc.), helps to create a shared agenda and understanding of quality’ (EC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014, 9). As pointed out by the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016), individual competences alone are insufficient to ensure quality. A ‘competent system’ is needed, which includes collaborations between individuals, teams and institutions, and which has competent governance at policy level. Moreover, a competent system is described as one that builds upon staff’s initial good education with continuous professional development, which includes providing staff with regular opportunities to coreflect with their team members on their ideas and practices.