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    Provision of quality early childcare services: synthesis report

    Melhuish, Edward (2016) Provision of quality early childcare services: synthesis report. Discussion Paper. European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.

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    Abstract

    Childcare systems involve labour market, parental leave and childcare policies. It is clear that some countries, including the Czech Republic, fall far behind recommended targets for childcare provision. Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) has two major functions: to help parents’ participation in the labour market, and to foster children’s development. Governments frequently make the mistake of focussing on one only of these functions, and it is negligent for a government to ignore that ECEC will inevitably influence both parental employment and children’s development. Societies are changing, and the demand for skills will increase, and required skills will change so an adaptable workforce is important. A country’s future depends on how it treats children. It is almost always cheaper, more effective, and more sustainable to prevent problems rather than to try and cure them later, and preschool experience is critical for adult skills. The most effective approach to ECEC is high-quality universal services, with additional individual support for those in need. Good quality, affordable ECEC helps the reconciliation of work and family life and thus fosters parental labour market participation and gender equality. Improving childcare may also improve declining fertility rates, by lowering the cost of childbearing in terms of employment and career opportunities. The use of childcare will be affected by parental leave and the availability, cost, and quality of care. Very long parental leave appears to lead to lower use of childcare in a number of countries. Children’s daily experiences drive child development, and these daily experiences constitute the quality of care. Overall, high-quality childcare has been associated with benefits for children’s development, with the strongest effects for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The evidence on preschool years (over three years) is fairly consistent, but the evidence for birth to three years is equivocal with some studies finding negative effects, some no effects and some positive effects associated with childcare. Discrepant results relate partly to age of starting and partly to quality of childcare. Also childcare effects vary by family background and negative, neutral and positive effects may occur depending on the relative balance of quality of care at home and in childcare. Effects may relate to both quantity and quality of childcare, but effect sizes for childcare are about half that for family factors. Stable care with staff that has good training contributes substantially to good quality care. As indicated in the EU (2013) recommendation on investing in children, investing in highquality ECEC is an effective evidence-based policy tool, although it is not a panacea. However, the level of ECEC provision is very unequal across the EU, and to be effective, it needs to be of high quality. The Czech Republic is planning policy changes to expand its childcare system. As early child development is the foundation for later educational, social and occupational success, there are likely to be longer-term consequences. Such changes may well affect longer-term EU-2020 goals through improving children’s outcomes including reducing early school-leaving and improving access to higher education, which in turn may lead to overall poverty reduction, and enhanced social inclusion, resulting from improved employment amongst the population.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
    Additional Information: ISSN: ISSN 1977-7973, ISBN: 9789279550072, http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1024&langId=en&newsId=2335&moreDocuments=yes&tableName=news
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Science > Psychological Sciences
    Research Centre: Children, Families and Social Issues, Institute for the Study of
    Depositing User: Edward Melhuish
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2016 13:55
    Last Modified: 05 Dec 2016 11:52
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/16446

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