International perspectives on Early Years – part two

International perspectives on Early Years – part two

A report by the UK Government on international perspectives in Early Years, published last year, looks at the aims and purposes of Early Years provision in an international context. It also reflects on where England is within the international context. In part one of our review we looked at what the report says on availability and access to Early Years and in this second part in a series of four, we look at what the report says on the Early Years workforce.

Qualifications
.

Research has shown that staff qualifications impact the quality of Early Years provision. Although qualifications do not guarantee better teaching, evidence has shown that highly qualified educators are more effective at providing a stimulating and engaging environment for children. Qualification requirements for Early Years staff vary across countries. Adults working with children over three years are generally required to hold a higher level of qualification, with approximately 75 per cent of European countries requiring degree level or equivalent. Countries such as France, Iceland, and Italy, require those working with children over the age of three to hold a master’s level qualification.

In the majority of European countries, it is not required to hold a degree-level qualification to work with children under age three. For example, in Belgium, there is no requirement for any specific training or qualifications to work with children under the age of two and a half. These differences may reflect how the focus on education increases as children grow older.

Qualified educators are helped by Early Years assistants in many countries and these assistants generally have lower qualification. Some countries such as France and Slovenia require assistants to hold a level three qualification. In Ireland, according to the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, staff must hold a level five qualification to work directly with children of preschool age.

Professional Development
.

Among European countries, mandatory professional development is less common for Early Years staff than for primary and secondary teachers. Only in Scotland, Serbia, and Luxembourg, is professional development mandatory for all. In England, professional development is expected of all Early Years staff. Providers must ensure that all staff receive induction training, which should include safeguarding training, child protection, and health and safety training. However, access to professional development varies with many settings struggling to afford it.

Workforce Shortages
.

More children are attending Early Years settings in almost all OECD countries and the workforce is struggling to keep up. There is an aging Early Years workforce, with almost a third of OECD pre-primary teachers aged over 50. Many countries are already experiencing workforce shortages, and these will be worsened as teachers begin to retire.

There are many reasons why countries are struggling to recruit and retain Early Years staff, including low wages, feeling undervalued, and poor working conditions. Many of those who choose a career in the Early Years sector do not see it as a long-term career with many moving into a career in primary teaching.

Workforce shortages have a serious impact on participation. Germany is unable to meet the demand for places after expanding the legal entitlement to one, partly due to shortages. It can also lead to other issues, with an insufficient workforce available to maintain adult-child ratios.

Ratios
.

The report notes that the ratio of children to adults in a setting is linked to the quality of interactions between adults and children. Research suggests that the optimal adult-to-child ratios for Early Years settings vary for each age group. For children under two, the optimal rate is one to two. For children aged between two and three, it is one to four or one to five. For children aged between three and five, the optimal ratio is between one to ten and one to 17.

Ratios vary depending on the age of the children in the setting across OECD countries. The average adult-to-child ratio in OECD countries is one to seven for children under the age of three and one to 18 for children aged three to the age that they start school. The difference between the optimal ratios and the actual ratios is understood as a result of staff shortages.

Ratio regulations for home-based providers are also more complex. This makes them difficult to compare across countries. Across European countries, the maximum number of children a home-based provider can look after is usually around four or five, but it can range between three and eight.

In the next part of this series, we will look at what the report has to say about curriculum and pedagogy in the Early Years sector. If you have any questions regarding this report, please contact our policy team.

Share this post

More to explore

Press Release – OWLET: Lullabies of the World

Press Release – OWLET: Lullabies of the World

Lullabies from around the world help to foster inclusion and celebrate multilingualism in Early Years settings nationwide . Thursday, April…
International Perspectives on Early Years - part three

International Perspectives on Early Years - part three

A report by the UK Government on international perspectives in Early Years, published last year, looks at the aims and…
Policy in Action 9 April 2024

Policy in Action 9 April 2024

At least 80 per cent of workers should be covered by collective bargaining agreements and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)…

Share this post

More to explore

Press Release – OWLET: Lullabies of the World

Press Release – OWLET: Lullabies of the World

Lullabies from around the world help to foster inclusion and celebrate multilingualism in Early Years settings nationwide . Thursday, April…
International Perspectives on Early Years - part three

International Perspectives on Early Years - part three

A report by the UK Government on international perspectives in Early Years, published last year, looks at the aims and…
Policy in Action 9 April 2024

Policy in Action 9 April 2024

At least 80 per cent of workers should be covered by collective bargaining agreements and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)…