– By Aoife Horgan
A small team from Early Childhood Ireland travelled to Denmark on Monday, 5 June for the second Learning, Teaching, and Training Activities (LTTA) as part of our Erasmus+ funded small-scale project: Enhancing Quality in Family Day Care (Childminding). While ‘Family Day Care’ is a term commonly used in Europe, in Ireland we tend to use the term ‘Childminding’, so in this blog post, I will use this term.
Our Danish partners had created a full itinerary for us with the first day of the LTTA being held in Aarhus University. The focus of this day was the policy and legislation underpinning Childminding in Denmark. We also learned about the structure of the general ECEC system in Denmark. We enjoyed a presentation and discussion on the recruitment, education and retention of childminders which is mostly carried out by the Municipalities who have oversight of all childminders. We then heard from the Parents organisation in Denmark, FOLA, which gave us another perspective and showed us the impact a parents organisation can have. The afternoon consisted of interesting lectures on research and quality in Denmark in the Childminding sector.
On the second day of the LTTA, we had the opportunity to visit childminders in the municipality of Rodovre. (We are still trying to pronounce it correctly – so difficult no matter how many times our Danish friends repeated it for us!). We were split into small groups for this activity to avoid having too many people arriving at the childminders home at once. This meant, as a group, we saw a wide variety of different settings. The ratios were good with the average being one adult to three to four children, although in some cases, up to five children were allowed. We were very warmly welcomed by the childminders we visited, who spent time speaking with us, informing us about their routines and experience of being a childminder.
Interestingly, the municipalities have in place a system where they ‘group’ six or seven childminders together. This group meet at least once a week in a building provided by the municipality. The childminders get to know each other, and they all know the children in the group and vice versa. This makes for an excellent support system and is also strengthened by the fact that each childminder had a pedagogue (or mentor) assigned to them who visits approximately once a month but who they can speak with at any time. If the childminder has an issue, the pedagogue can visit as often as is needed.
Our final day consisted of a visit to FOA (Labour Union for childminders). We had an informative presentation on the work of the union and how they support childminders, in addition to how the Union works closely with the municipalities. We heard from the head of childcare in another municipality, Aalborg, which gave us another perspective on Childminding in Denmark, as there can be slightly different structures in different municipalities. We also heard from a consultant within FOA about the work they do with staff in terms of their education and ended the day with a reflective discussion on our learnings from the trip.
Some interesting facts that we learned about Childminding in Denmark
- There is no mandatory minimum qualification for childminders
- There is no mandatory ongoing Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training.
- The value placed on children and childhood is significant in Denmark and this comes through in their policy and legislation.
- The municipality is legally obliged to provide children with a childcare place and faces severe financial penalties if this does not happen.
- Most childminders work with and are paid by the municipality. The municipality then assumes responsibility for assigning children to the childminder and organising an introduction session with parents for children starting. The pedagogues provide ongoing support to the childminder. In the event that someone is sick, they will organise another childminder within their group to look after the child as a guest.
- Childminders work up to 48 hours a week and have seven weeks of annual leave.
- A small number of childminders work privately. The municipality still has oversight and must approve the premises where they will be working but they do not assist private childminders in finding children to look after or providing an introduction meeting. Private childminders can earn up to €7,770 per month but do not get the same level of support from the municipalities.
- Children sleep outside until they are two years old.
- The municipalities pay au pairs and nannies but the numbers working in these areas are very small.
- A recent study found low levels of quality within the Childminding sector and there is now a huge focus on increasing quality in Childminding in Denmark.
- There is a shortage of childminders in the sector.
It was wonderful to visit Denmark and see Childminding practices in person and have discussions and reflections with our Flemish and Danish partners. It reminded us how valuable it is from a learning perspective to experience and discuss local practice on site rather than just reading about the system in a country report. We are now preparing for the third LTTA which Early Childhood Ireland is hosting, and it will take place in Dublin in October. We are really looking forward to welcoming our Danish and Flemish partners to Ireland.