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Abstract

There is growing evidence among researchers and internationalorganisations that quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), andultimately the outcomes for children and families – especially disadvantagedones – is dependent on well-educated and competent staff, and that a lack ofhigher pre-service training can be partly compensated by in-service training of asufficient intensity and length. In this article an overview is given of threequalitative studies of the competences needed to work in ECEC with childrenand families at risk. These three studies focus on ECEC practitioners who have played an active role in a change process aimed at developing a new pedagogicalapproach to working with children and parents with disadvantaged backgrounds. The three studies also strengthen the view that pedagogical support, sustainedover long periods of time and developed by specialised staff (such aspedagogical coaches), is seen as a successful way to develop reflective thinkingon practice and to construct new knowledge and practices when working withfamilies and children. To conclude, the article tries to define how in-servicetraining can be organised in a comprehensive way.
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Working with young children
from poor and migrant
families
Dr. Jan Peeters
Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK1)
Ghent University
1. Vernieuwing in de Basisvoorzieningen voor Jonge Kinderen.
Summary:
The recent wave of immigration in the EU forces many member states to change pedagogical
practices in early childhood education and care in order to achieve better, more equitable
outcomes for migrant and poor children. From recent research we know that the quality of
Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and ultimately the outcomes for children and
families – especially for those with disadvantaged background – is dependent on well-educated,
experienced and competent staff. But to be competent to work with young children from
poor and migrant families is not the sole responsibility of the individual teacher or educator.
Competence unfolds in reciprocal relationships between all elements of the early childhood
system: individuals, institutions, and the governance of the system on national and even on
international levels. In this article we have tried to implement this thinking about what it means
to be professional in early childhood into the wider context of the early childhood policy and
practice system. We describe the results of policy research and different innovative actions
that “Vernieuwing in Basisvoorzieningen voor Jonge Kinderen“ (VBJK), the “Research Centre
for Innovations in the Early Years“ has undertaken together with partners in the past years
to develop such a competent system to work in a context of diversity. In this article we tried
to formulate concrete guidelines and tools that must help policymakers and stakeholders to
implement this thinking about what it means to be professional when working with poor and
migrant children in all levels of the ECEC system.
Keywords: Early childhood system - Migrant and poor children - Pedagogical coach - Reflective approach.
Travailler avec de jeunes enfants issus de familles pauvres et migrantes
Résumé : La récente vague d’immigration dans l’UE amène de nombreux États membres à transformer
les pratiques pédagogiques dans l’accueil et l’éducation de la petite enfance pour obtenir des
résultats meilleurs et plus équitables chez les enfants migrants et pauvres. Des recherches
récentes ont montré que la qualité de l’accueil et l’éducation des jeunes enfants et, au final,
les résultats pour les enfants et les familles – et en particulier de milieux défavorisés – repose
sur des équipes compétentes, expérimentées et bien formées. Mais être compétent pour
travailler avec de jeunes enfants de familles migrantes et pauvres ne relève pas de la seule
responsabilité de l’éducateur ou de l’enseignant, pris individuellement. La compétence réside
dans les relations réciproques entre tous les éléments de la prise en charge de la petite enfance :
individus, institutions et gouvernance aux niveaux nationaux et même internationaux. Dans cet
article nous avons essayé de réfléchir à ce que signifie être professionnel de la petite enfance
au niveau des politiques et des pratiques. Nous présentons les résultats de recherches sur les
politiques et d’actions innovantes que le centre « Innovations de la petite enfance » (VBJK) a
récemment entreprises avec des partenaires pour développer une organisation compétente
pour travailler dans un contexte de diversité. Dans cet article, nous essaierons de préciser
des orientations et des outils concrets pouvant aider les décideurs et les parties prenantes à
mettre en œuvre cette vision de ce que signifie être professionnel face à des enfants migrants
et pauvres à tous les niveaux de la prise en charge de la petite enfance.
Mots-clés : Approche réflexive - Coach pédagogique - Enfants migrants et pauvres - Prise en charge de la
petite enfance.
2La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
What makes a competent ecec Workforce?
A recently published literature study on the role of Early Childhood Education
and Care (ECEC) in preventing early school leaving that has shown that quality
ECEC can yield substantial beneficial effects, even lasting up to adolescence
(Dumcius, Peeters et al., 2014). In doing so, quality ECEC can contribute to
alleviating the effects of poverty from an early age. Recent research taught
us that early childhood is a period of uncontested importance for lifelong
development and that the cycle of poverty and disadvantage can be stopped
by focusing on the most vulnerable young children (Vandenbroeck & Lazarri,
2014). There exists also a broad consensus among researchers and international
organisations (OECD, 2006; UNICEF, 2008) that the quality of ECEC and
ultimately the outcomes for children and families – especially for those with
disadvantaged background – is dependent on well-educated, experienced and
competent staff (Peeters & Vandenbroeck, 2012). The European Commission
has therefore recommended that Member States “reduce inequality at a young
age by investing in early childhood education and care (ECEC)“ and “revise
and strengthen the professional profile of all teaching professions and prepare
teachers for social diversity; deploy special cultural mediators and role models
to facilitate the integration of Roma children and children with an immigrant
background“ (European Commission 2013, 2.2).
Innovations in the Early Years, the research centre on ECEC at the Ghent
University in Belgium, was involved in the past years in several studies and
innovative actions to develop a so called “competent system“ (Peeters &
Vandenbroeck, 2012). Developing competent practices cannot be considered
as the responsibility of individual practitioners but is a joint effort that involves
teams, training centres, local administrative institutions and non-governmental
bodies, as well as national governance systems that provide the required
conditions for staff development and social inclusions (Urban & Vandenbroeck
et al., 2011). In this paper we will discuss several studies, innovation projects
and policy advocacy initiatives on professionalism to work with migrant and
disadvantaged young children and their families that were set up in order to
develop such a competent system.
The first research question is we will focus on is : “Which competences do
professionals need to work in a context of diversity and poverty“ (Peeters &
Sharmahd, 2014). Then we will discuss the results of two European studies, one
commissioned by the European Commission and one by Eurofound. Here the
research question is: What kind of pre- and in-service that is needed to obtain
competent workforce to work with poor and disadvantaged families and their
children“ (Urban et al., 2011; Peeters, Vandenbroeck, 2012; Peeters et al., 2015).
The last part of the article will focus on how this can be implemented in a coherent
policy towards ECEC. More concrete we will focus on what one can learn from
the results of the Transatlantic Forum on Inclusive Early Years, a project on policy
advocacy with a large group of foundations in which around 150 policymakers and
100 researchers in ECEC were involved. Here the research question is: Which
are critical factors to develop a competent system.“
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Which competences are needed on the individual
and the team level?
Literature that unveils the meaning of reflective professionalism in working with
children and parents at risk is rather scarce, and the voice of practitioners referring
to what kind of professionalism is needed when working with families at risk, is
often missing. Two qualitative studies (Peeters & Sharmahd, 2014) give voice to the
practitioner who is an important “actor of social change, when working successfully
with children and families at risk. The researchers of both studies have exchanged
and discussed the results of the two different studies and they share the broader
methodological framework, which belongs to the field of participatory research.
The first study, “The construction of a new profession, a PhD study on professionalism
in childcare, analysed a selection of little narratives“ (Peeters, 2008). The selected
fragments focused mainly on the way childcare practitioners, parents, researchers,
coordinators interpreted the work of the “agentic“ practitioner from the 1970’s to 2007.
In total, 30 hours of videos, 181 articles and three books were analysed featuring 146
practitioners, 39 parents, 37 researchers, 17 policymakers, 10 directors and 7 children.
The analysis of these narratives of the actors of change in Flemish childcare services
shows that by being part of innovative projects that aim to tackle disadvantage,
professionals felt encouraged to strongly consider and include parental opinions and
views in their discourse. The same analysis also showed that the “agentic“ childcare
practitioner gradually conceptualised the child’s education as a shared responsibility
between the parents and the childcare practitioner. In addition, they confronted
questions of inclusion and exclusion and challenged the traditional power relations.
The researchers involved in the second study Diversity and Social Inclusion, Exploring
Competences for Professional practice in ECEC“ embraced an approach similar to
the “Construction of a new profession“ study in Flanders. A survey was conducted
among practitioners working with children aged 0 to 6 in Belgium, England, France,
Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, Scotland, Serbia, Spain and the Netherlands. In each
of these countries five “actors of social change, who were seen as successful in
dealing with children and families at risk by the ISSA or DECET staff of that specific
country, were interviewed in a semi-structural way, following a specific grid. What was
interesting in this survey was that, regardless of the differences in working conditions,
contexts and qualifications, the actors of change outlined similar fundamental and
essential competences for ECEC practitioners in addressing equality, diversity and
poverty issues (DECET and ISSA, 2011), than in the Flemish study on childcare.
The sample of practitioners in both studies does not represent the entire population
of ECEC practitioners or those who are “average“ practitioners. Instead, they may
be identified as “actors of change“ (Peeters & Vandenbroeck, 2011), as they have
played an active role in a change process aimed at developing a new pedagogical
approach to working with children and parents from vulnerable groups.
From the analysis of the narratives of the actors of change in the two different
studies, we can answer that competences cannot simply be understood as an
individual responsibility of the ECEC practitioner. On the individual and team level
the following broad competences are needed when working with ethnic minority
families, poor families and children at risk:
4La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
-
openness to dialogue with parents, colleagues and children on the basis of reciprocity;
- an engagement and ability to work towards social change;
-
the ability to reflect critically on the own pedagogical practice and that of the team
and the institution;
- the ability to create new pedagogical knowledge and practice.
What kind of pre- and in-service is needed
to obtain a competent system?
Initial preparation: adapted training routes for low qualified ethnic minority workers
to secondary and tertiary qualifications
There is substantial evidence that staff qualifications matter: higher levels of initial
preparation are associated with better ECEC quality as well as better developmental
outcomes for children (Fukkink & Lont, 2007; Sylva et al., 2004). Staff with more
formal education and more specialised early childhood training provides more
stimulating, warm and supportive interactions with children (OECD, 2006). There
is a consensus that places the ideal level of qualification on bachelor level (at least
60% of the workforce), but in many countries the actual qualification level of the
ECEC workforce is rather low (OECD, 2006).
However, the Competence Requirements in ECEC, (CoRe, 2009-2011), a research
conducted jointly by the School of Education of the University of East London and
the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy of Ghent University explored
the competences and professionalism in early childhood practices. This study
commissioned by the European Commission DG Education and Culture, also points
out that staff qualifications in itself cannot be considered sufficient to predict quality
of ECEC provision: the content of the training and the methodologies adopted for
its delivery play a crucial role as well. The reciprocal integration of diversified training
devices (lectures, small-group project work, practicum, analysis of practices) that
produce recursive interplay between theorising and practicing activities is an also
major success factor (Peeters, Vandenbroeck, 2012).
Although there is a consensus among scholars and international organisations that
the ECEC workforce needs a Bachelor level qualification, in many European Member
States the qualification of the ECEC workforce is rather low (OECD, 2006). In some
countries, the minimum level of initial qualification required is upper secondary; in
others, no formal qualification is needed (European Commission, 2014). Overall,
according to the CoRe study in most Member States between 40% and 50% of
the workforce consists of low or unqualified ECEC assistants (Van Laere, Peeters,
Vandenbroeck, 2012). The CoRe study conceptualised the term ‘assistant’ within the
ECEC sector: the term includes all low or non-qualified workers. The job as an assistant
in ECEC is often used as an opportunity for young non-qualified people from ethnic
minority background to enter the labour market (Urban, Vandenbroeck et al., 2011),
but it seldom leads to recognised qualifications and a decent paid job, and many
assistants are demotivated and leave the profession with a risk of unemployment
in the near future (Jensen and Kjeldsen, 2015). Yet the Core study concluded that
these low-qualified assistants are very important for the well being of the families
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from migrant and poor background. Therefore the Core study recommended a Life
Long Learning (LLL) perspective that offers unqualified assistants a pathway towards
qualification (Van Laere, Peeters, Vandenbroeck, 2012).
Lazarri, Vandenbroeck & Peeters (2013) concluded in their literature review that adapted
training routes and diversity profiling are necessary for early childhood staff working
with children from different backgrounds. Increasing the recruitment of staff from
diverse backgrounds and progressively upgrading their qualification level (to secondary
and tertiary level) could contribute significantly to practice multicultural educational
approaches in early childhood services. In many cases however the elaboration of
inclusive training roots which facilitate the access of underrepresented groups (eg.
members of ethnic, cultural, linguistic minorities and marginalised communities)
to professional qualifications at tertiary level remains a challenge. The CoRe study
findings show that successful strategies to face such challenges encompass the
creation of various qualifying pathways, focused on the recognition of prior learning,
for experienced untrained practitioners and the provision of additional support
courses for students with an ethnic minority background (Thollon-Behar & Mony,
2016; Jensen, 2016; Miller & Cameron, 2016; Peeters, De Kimpe & Brandt, 2016).
Pedagogical Coaches are needed to work with disadvantaged children
The CoRe study findings leave no doubt: quality in ECEC requires not only a qualified,
competent practitioner but also a competent system that sustains and feeds into
the ongoing professionalization of staff in relation to changing societal needs. A
system that prepares and supports professionals to face the challenging questions
on educational orientations, community participation and desired outcomes for
children in contexts of socio-cultural diversity.
An essential actor in such a competent system is the pedagogical coach therefore
in the Flemish Community of Belgium a study on professionalism in childcare with
many stakeholders involved, advocated for a new bachelor degree that should train
the students in pedagogical mentoring of low qualified childcare workers (Peeters,
2008; 2012a). In 2011 the new bachelor degree Pedagogy for the Young Child was
introduced and the first students graduated in 2014. They are expected to be multi-
employable“: as practitioners in childcare facilities, as pedagogical support persons
for family day care providers, as coaches for practitioners in adult education and as
pedagogical mentors in ECEC teams. The underlying concept of this bachelor degree
is the importance of reflecting on practice and the construction of new pedagogical
practice in collaboration with the practitioners, while dealing with diversity in the
interactions with parents and children (Peeters, 2012b).
Which kind of CPD is effective to work with poor and migrant families
Despite the substantial evidence showing that staff qualifications matter, research
also points out that qualifications per se are not sufficient to determine the quality
of ECEC provision (OECD, 2012). The content of the training – as well as the
methodologies adopted for its delivery – also play a crucial role in increasing the
professional competence of educators. In this regard, research findings also show
that continuous professional development initiatives (“in-service training“) may be
6La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
equally important as initial professional preparation (“pre-service training“ leading
to officially recognised qualifications), provided these are of sufficient length and
intensity (Fukkink and Lont, 2007). As several research gaps were identified – both
in relation to the content and delivery of professional development opportunities as
well as in relation to their effective contribution to the qualification of ECEC services
(OECD, 2012), – Eurofound launched a study in 2013 that aimed to explore how
various forms of professional development interact to improve children’s learning
in such settings, that was commissioned to a consortium of VBJK (Innovations in
the Early Years), Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of
London, and PPMI in Vilnius (Peeters et al., 2015).
The Eurofound study consisted of a systematic review of existing research carried
out in EU-28 member states on ECEC staff continuous professional development
(CPD) and on its impact on the quality of ECEC services as well as on children’s
outcomes (Peeters et al., 2015). This systematic review – which analysed the
results of 41 studies of high quality on CPD that were selected from nearly 20 000
studies – pointed out that continuous professional development initiatives, which
are succeeding to improve the quality of ECEC services and childrens experiences,
are characterised by the following key success factors:
-
a coherent pedagogical framework or learning curriculum that builds upon research
and addresses the needs of disadvantaged and poor families;
-
the active involvement of practitioners in the process of improving educational
practice enacted within their settings;
-
a focus on practice-based learning taking place in constant dialogue with colleagues,
all parents (in particular the poor and disadvantaged) and local communities;
-
the provision of enabling working conditions, such as the availability of paid
hours for non-contact time and the presence of a mentor or coach who facilitate
practitioners’ reflection in reference groups.
The conclusions of the Eurofound research is in line with results of the CoRe
research. The CoRe research included a comprehensive literature review, a survey
among experts in 15 countries and seven in-depth case studies.
In the Ghent case study, nine biographical interviews with actors of change from
three different ECEC services in disadvantaged neighbourhoods were conducted.
In the interviews, the researcher focused on which competences were needed to
work with disadvantaged and migrant children and also on where educators did
acquire the competences for working with ethnic minority, disadvantaged and poor
families. After one month the researcher conducted a thematic interview with the
same nine practitioners. In this interview, core themes that had become apparent
from the biographical interviews were discussed. In total, more than 16 hours of
interviews and focus groups were transcribed. (Peeters, De Kimpe & Brandt, 2016).
In the CoRe case study of Ghent the researchers concluded that experienced childcare
practitioners have reached a high level of professionalism, and had an open approach
towards poor and disadvantaged parents. The broad vision of their profession, held
by experienced practitioners, with a rather low qualification, can be explained as
the effect of the long-term pedagogical coaching of childcare practitioners by the
Pedagogical Guidance Centre of the city of Ghent over the course of the last 30
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years. In this sense, a continuous investment in a coherent and diversified policy
towards professional development, organised by specialised staff (pedagogical
coaches) over long periods of time, has been identified by the researchers as one
of the key success factors for staff’s professional development to work with migrant
and disadvantaged children and families within ECEC services.
What kind of coaching is effective? The research Centre at the Ghent University
(Peeters, 2008) also studied how competence acquisition and production, starting
from educator’s concrete experiences, has been implemented in France (Barbier,
2006; Favre 2004; Wittorski, 2005; Meunier, 2004). The method of analyse des
pratiques stimulates the reflective capacities of social and educational professionals
and it designs a theoretical framework for practitioners’ reflection on their own
practices. Professionalisation is considered as an infinite and continuous process of
transformation of competencies in relation to a process of transformation of activities.
By analysing the practical experiences of educators in working in a context of diversity
– first on an individual basis and later in groups – this professionalization process is
adequately steered and supported. The educators exchange their understandings
and experiences in working with poor and disadvantaged parents and their children,
they raise questions, they discuss possible solutions and conflicting alternatives.
Through this process, they learn to deal with unforeseen pedagogic situations and
to cooperate in searching for the most favourable solutions (Favre, 2004).
The French experience inspired VBJK to develop a method based on analyse des
pratiques“ that could inspire pedagogical coaches in their work and reinforce the
competent system. Therefore Innovations in the Early Years and the Artevelde
University College of Ghent have set up a project, financed by the European Social
Fund, to develop Wanda, a method rooted in the French Analyse de Pratiques and
in the Anglo-Saxon Appreciative Inquiry Method (Cooperrider 2003), which aims to
support reflection in ECEC services under the guidance of a facilitator (De Schepper,
Peleman, Sharmahd, Vastmans, 2015). Over the course of five years (2010-2015),
the Wanda tool was tested out en implemented in five countries (Belgium, Czech
Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia) in kindergartens, childcare centres, family
day-care services, out-of-school services and training centres for students. Through
critical reflection on pedagogical practice, Wanda helps practitioners develop new
forms of learning and construct innovative practice. By analysing concrete situations
with respect towards all the actors involved, this method supports practitioners in
working on concepts such as inclusion or diversity, and thus becomes a way to
build new practices also regarding children and families at risk. The evaluation of the
Wanda project showed that this method of coaching can be effective in stimulating
a dynamic relationship between theory and practice, and in facilitating the reflective
thinking of practitioners, even when the initial qualification was low. Through Wanda
competences on an individual, team and institutional level can be increased, thereby
supporting the concept of a “competent system“ as described by the CoRe research
(Vandenbroeck, Urban, Peeters, 2016). From the Eurofound study, we also learn that
pedagogical support like it is conceived in Wanda by specialised counsellors that
starts from a focus on reflection on practice, can be an effective way to improve
the pedagogical practice (Peeters et al., 2015).
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Critical factors for efficient continuous professional development
within a competent system
An analysis of 35 years of a coherent policy towards CPD in the city of Ghent made
it possible to define critical factors for an efficient CPD and coaching in particular
(Peeters, De Kimpe & Brandt, 2016).
First, during the coaching sessions, the practitioners should be able to express
themselves freely in an open dialogue, and the culture of the team must be valorised.
Therefore the counsellors need to have an appreciative approach and the coaches
need to have a strong confidence in the capabilities and the engagement of the
practitioners.
Second, effective continuous professional development should fit the mission and
vision of the local organisation, underpinned by a framework of principles and values.
This quality framework must be sufficiently broad and open so that practitioners and
teams are challenged to discover, to discuss and to engage themselves in developing
a common vision and practice, a common culture based on common values. The
creation of a common vision, based on common values, that is embraced by all
actors, is an on-going process that involves every actor.
A third critical factor for effective CPD is the ownership of the change.
External coaches or counsellors support the team, but only on demand and in close
cooperation with the heads of centres. Pedagogical coaches play a specific role
to support heads of centres and teams in developing their pedagogical vision and
construct new pedagogical practice. As a coach or facilitator they create a culture
of mutual learning. Pedagogical coaches combine a broad knowledge on ECEC and
group processes and dynamics, with the competence to use different models of
coaching (Wanda, documentation…) that stimulate reflective thinking.
Governance: a need for a coherent professional
development policy
An ECEC workforce that is able to effectively and respectfully work with migrant
children and children from low-income families needs specific governance in which
certain conditions are met. Developing competent practices cannot be considered
as the sole responsibility of individual practitioner but is a joint effort that involves
teams, training centres, local administrative institutions and non-governmental bodies,
as well as national governance systems that provide the required conditions for staff
development in social inclusion (Peeters, Vandenbroeck, 2012). Research shows
that successful initiatives for the professional development of ECEC practitioners
working in contexts of diversity are characterized by a coherent policy on institutional
and inter-institutional level. This coherent professional development policy involves
(Peeters, De Kimpe, Brandt, 2016; Vandenbroeck, Peeters, Urban & Lazarri, 2016):
- a training of directors;
- the exchange of innovative practice among centres;
- peer groups meetings (learning communities);
- and pedagogical mentoring by specialised staff (pedagogical coaches).
These forms of experience-specific learning builds upon participatory and transformative
pedagogical approaches, professional reflective exchanges among colleagues and
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cooperation with families and local communities. Other recommendations from the
CoRe study for policymakers:
- increase the number of bachelor (ISCED 5) to at least 60% of the workforce ;
- the training profile must be characterised by an equal and reciprocal relationship
between theory and practice;
-
increase the job mobility: special training paths for bridge figures and assistants
from migrant and poor background that lead to secondary and tertiary qualification.
Local or national governments have to allocate space and time to mutual engagement
with colleagues, parents and communities. Supportive measures are for example:
paid “non-contact“ time (meaning, time on the job not spent with the children) for
team meetings where can be reflected on practice or for pedagogical documentation,
site-based professional development and parent-dedicated activities. Newly recruited
ECEC staff should benefit from coaching and supervision during the induction while
all team members (including assistants) should have the opportunity to join regular
in-service training and pedagogical support programmes. The opportunities in diversifying
professional profiles, inter-professional collaboration and flexible career pathways
should be fully deployed to favour the inclusion of staff from disadvantaged groups
(Vonta, 2016). But this should by no means lead to applying unfair or inequitable
employment conditions for these groups. (Bennett & Moss, 2011, p. 5)
hoW to influence policy makers?
We conclude that there is growing evidence among researchers and international
organisations that quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), and
ultimately the outcomes for children and families – especially disadvantaged ones
– is dependent on well-educated and competent staff, and that a lack of higher
pre-service training can be partly compensated by in-service training of a sufficient
intensity and length. But not all this evidence makes it to the policy tables (Peeters,
Vandekerckhove, 2015). Researchers and policymakers sometimes seem to speak
a different language. The scientific caution of researchers differs somewhat from
the language of policy-makers, who most often look for concrete answers to the
complex questions they are facing. Policy-makers can sometimes lack a long-term
perspective, as their concerns lie with quick impact and their next elections prospects
(Staggs, 2012). Therefore, the research field needs translators, facilitators – people
who can convert the scientific information into useable material and ensure its
applicability for policy-makers (Ulkuer and Sherrod, 2012). The path from scientific
evidence to policy and to practice can be challenging and governments and civil
society need a variety of support mechanisms to design and fund high-quality,
effective programmes and services for young children and their families (Grover
2012). But policies also affect those who work with young children; they too need
to be aware of policy agendas and developments and how they can try to influence
policy. ECEC stakeholders must be able to question the link between scientific
evidence and the dominant discourse, and to consider and reflect on the values
and the assumptions on which each policy is based (Miller and Hevey, 2012, 7-8).
To facilitate and support such cooperation, we need open dialogue spaces where
politicians, administrators, stakeholders and scholars can discuss together and learn
10 La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
to understand each other’s language (Moss, 2007; Peeters, 2012). This raises the
question of who could accomplish this translation from evidence to practical policy
and how such dialogue between the involved groups can be supported. Neither
ECEC researchers nor practitioners alone have the full array of knowledge and
skills to move effectively from established principles to specific plans for a specific
context (Super, Rebello Britto, and Engle 2012, 308). In the past, foundations such
as the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Aga Kahn and the Open Society Foundation
have played an important role in bringing together policy-makers, practitioners and
researchers and their combined input can lead to positive effects in the policy of
ECEC at the local and regional levels (Gielen 2004, 17; Peeters 2008b, 12 and 169;
Grover 2012, 502; Tanckersley, Mikailova, and Sula 2012, 122). The King Baudouin
Foundation (KBF) has a long tradition in innovative projects on child poverty and
immigration issues in education. A 2011 brochure of the foundation contains the
following statement: “There is a growing body of evidence to show that investment
in services for society’s youngest children can help improve children’s lives now and
help prevent more costly interventions later on“ (KBF, 2011).
Convinced by the scientific evidence of the importance of ECEC for vulnerable and
migrant children, the KBF therefore took the initiative in 2012 to set up a common
project to translate the scientific evidence towards policy-makers with several North
American and European foundations
1.
This consortium of foundations then appointed the European VBJK, Innovations
in the Early Years and the US-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI) to organise
seven high-level panels with policy-makers, stakeholders and researchers on some
of the most relevant and debated issues in ECEC. Both organisations work on the
input (background papers, relevant research, contributions and speakers) while the
foundations are in charge of inviting all participants.
On the second meeting in New York on Workforce preparation that was attended
by 15 high level researchers and 33 policy makers among others persons from the
Obama administration and from the European Commission and several members of
Parliament. The Forum formulated the following policy recommendations (Peeters
& Vandekerckhove, 2015):
We no longer live in countries where there is one obvious majority and one
specific, mostly immigrated, minority but in nations in which people from
several different religious, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds all
(should) have a place. Investing in workforce preparation is therefore necessary
to cultivate the reflective approach that practitioners need to deal with this
hyper-diversity.
Continuous Professional Development and support must be provided to all
staff, (also for the ethnic minorities assistants) with sufficient length and
1. The Jacobs Foundation (Switzerland); the Fundaçào Calouste Gulbenkian (Portugal); the Lego Foundation
(Denmark); the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the Universal Education Foundation (the Netherlands);
Compagnia di San Paolo and Fondazione Caripio (Italy); the Bertelmans Stiftung (Germany); the Foundation
for Child Development, the California Community Foundation, One America and Thrive by Five (the USA)
and the Atlantic Philanthropies (the USA and UK).
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La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
intensity to be effective and lead to change. Both pre-service (50% of the staff
should be on bachelor level) and in-service training with a focus on changing
practices are necessary.
Staff from different backgrounds can increase the awareness of stereotypes
and prejudices within the team and move forward in learning to deal with
these. In diversifying the workforce, ethnic matching should be avoided: all
staff members should work with all children and families.
To attract more people to ECEC, the work in ECEC services will need an upgrade
as well. The difference in status, salary and working conditions between ECEC
workforce and school teachers and between the assistant (mostly from ethnic
minority background) is no longer acceptable.
There is also a need for professional competence profiles and training competence
profiles that are focusing on the work in a context of hyper-diversity.
In general, we can conclude that the forum on Workforce (like the six other forum
meetings) is responding to a need of policy-makers, who can openly discuss issues
with colleagues from other countries and ask researchers more specific questions
during the breakout sessions and the more informal social events. In their turn,
researchers can get a better understanding of policy making and the perspective
of policy-makers by engaging in dialogue with decision-makers.
conclusion
Recent research provides a solid evidence that professional competence cannot
be sufficiently understood as a characteristic of the individual practitioner (teacher,
educator, childcare worker). “Instead, competence unfolds in reciprocal relationships
between all elements of the early childhood system: individuals, institutions, and
the governance of the system on national and even on international levels. It is
therefore futile (and unsustainable) to concentrate efforts and scarce resources on
only one aspect of that system. Our best chance to change practices in order to
achieve better, more equitable outcomes for all children and families is to address
all elements simultaneously, focusing (and resourcing) the relationships between
them“ (Peeters, Urban & Vandenbroeck, 2016, p 135).
In this article we have tried to give an answer to the research question: Which
competences do professionals need to work in a context of diversity and poverty“.
And we tried to implement this thinking about what it means to be professional
in early childhood into the wider context of the early childhood policy and practice
system. We discussed the competences that are required on individual and team
level. The results of the second research question: “What kind of initial and continuous
training that is needed to work with poor and migrant families“ focused on the role
of the pedagogical coach who is a crucial actor to develop reflective thinking within
this competent system. But pedagogical coaching also requires scientifically based
coaching tools that are suitable to work in this context of hyper-diversity and that
are based on that reflective approach. Training organisations, resources centres and
local governments can play a role in developing those tools and also in setting up
learning communities of practitioners and local policy makers. This level can also
12 La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation - no73 • 1er trimestre 2016
play an important role in implementing new pedagogical approaches. And last but
not least the policy level is of crucial importance to increase the professionalism
to work with poor and migrant children and their families. In this article we tried to
extended this thinking about what it means to be professional when working with
poor and migrant children from the individual level to all levels of the ECEC system.
More concrete we gave an answer to the question: Which are critical factors to
develop a competent system.“
But of course the work is not finished, in the perspective of the recent immigration
wave, the development of a competent system that will be able to work in a context
of hyper-diversity will be a top priority for the years to come.
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... Evidence from evaluations of programmes demonstrating good practice indicates that integrating services is only effective if it leads to better-quality services for children and families, and that integration on its own has little impact on outcomes (Katz &Valentine, 2009). Ample evidence exists that the quality of ECEC, and its positive outcomes for children -especially for those in vulnerable living conditions, including Roma -depend on well-qualified, experienced and competent staff (Peeters, 2016) 56 . The contexts of diversity and poverty require additional competences and professional attitudes from ECEC professionals (Peeters & Sharmahd, 2014). ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
While the benefits have been widely evidenced of high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) for young children, especially those from vulnerable groups, it is clear that efforts to improve the holistic development and well-being of children and families must involve a wide range of policies, services and actions. No single intervention, service or sector on its own can hope to achieve sustainable improvements. There is a growing recognition among researchers, policy makers and practitioners that policies and services need to become better integrated if they are to effectively address complex issues such as poverty and promote social inclusion. Only multi-dimensional, aligned and integrated responses and interventions in early years can address the complex and multi-faceted needs of all children and their families, especially those in vulnerable situations, such as families living in poverty, Roma families, or families in the contexts of migration or asylum. As a concept, integrated working covers a multitude of cooperative systems and models. It is context-specific: different models exist, starting from the specific needs of children and families, with different partners and/or sectors involved in distinct policy settings. Integrated working approaches are often seen as a continuum ranging from cooperation, through collaboration and coordination, to full integration, in which different services are united into a single organisation in order to enhance service delivery. A wide range of sectors and services can be involved in integrated working, depending upon the needs of children and their families. These include: early childhood education and care services; preventive health centres; preventive family support services; schools; out-of-school care; as well as services from the cultural sector (such as libraries, community centres). Integrated working can refer to specific types of integration (vertical integration, e.g. linking childcare to early education, with both being part of an integrated ECEC system); or it can go broader, linking ECEC provision to services in other sectors such as health or social services (horizontal integration). In this report, we consider integrated working to be a form of professional cooperation within a network or partnership, which provides a range of support services for families and children, accessible to all, in which families and children can participate and where parents are respected as first educators (Gordon et al., 2016). The main purpose of this report is to examine the added value provided by, and the prerequisites for, integrated working – as well as the crucial role played by ECEC services – in order to better serve all families, but especially vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families. Separate attention is devoted to Roma children and their families as one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe, often trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, exclusion and discrimination. The report is written for policy makers and professionals working in the field of early childhood education and care. It is guided by the following questions: What services or functions should be involved in integrated working, paying specific attention to the role that ECEC can play? What inspiring examples of integrated working already exist in Europe? What is the added value of integrated working (for children and families, for professionals, for policy makers) in general, and specifically for Roma? What are the prerequisites for integrated working in general, and specifically for integrated working aimed at addressing the needs of Roma? The report focuses on different groups of vulnerable children and families – and, in particular, on Roma. It is based on a literature review and six case studies illustrating different ways of integrated working in a variety of contexts. Specifically, the case studies look at the Early Years Children and Family Centre in Newry (the UK); bridging professionals in Ghent pre-schools (Belgium); the Sprungbrettangebote in Berlin, which links centres to childcare (Germany); Sure Start Children’s House in Porcsalma (Hungary); the municipal kindergarten network in Tundzha municipality (Bulgaria); and the ‘Ready Set Go!’ project (Romania). The evidence from the case studies (Part II) frames and supplements the more theoretical part of the report (Part I). It serves as a basis from which to discuss the added value of, and prerequisites for, integrated working (covered respectively in Parts III and IV), and feeds into the report’s policy recommendations.
... Several European policy documents state that attendance at high-quality ECEC services supports children's social inclusion and contributes to breaking the vicious cycle of disadvantage (European Commission 2011, 2013 Thematic Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care of the European Commission 2014). The increasing super-diversity of ECEC contexts (Peeters 2016) presents a further important challenge and requires that ECEC services take into account the plural identity of children from migrant families as well as their families' linguistic and cultural diversity in everyday practices (Vandenbroeck 1999;Brougère, Guenif-Souilamas, and Rayna 2008;Tobin 2016). ...
Article
The study explored the experience of young children from migrant families during their first entry into an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service and analysed how the children cope with the new context, which is socially, culturally and linguistically different from their home. The activities and social behaviour of two groups of children, aged from 18 to 36 months and 36–48 months, respectively, were filmed during everyday life in the ECEC service. Videos were integrated with ethnographic notes produced by teachers. The analysis showed the difficulties children from migrant families experienced during the transition from home to the ECEC service, as well as the competences they used to face the new experience. The analysis also highlighted how their experience in the service developed over the year and which practices supported their wellbeing, participation in activities and interactions with peers and adults. The findings provide useful suggestions for improving practices in ECEC contexts characterized by super-diversity.
... Il serait utile de leur proposer des outils pour mettre en place des ateliers qui tiennent compte des langues pratiquées par les enfants. Les structures d'accueil de la petite enfance pourraient ainsi mieux prendre en compte la singularité de chaque enfant et la pluralité culturelle des familles, en s'inspirant des pratiques éducatives d'autres pays européens (Hélot et Rubio, 2013 ;Peeters, 2016 De plus, la multiplication des sous-groupes constitués en fonction des variables secondaires (nombre d'ateliers, profils des enfants ayant reçu ou non une prise en charge particulière, langues parlées à la maison) fait que certains groupes ont de petits effectifs et limite le nombre d'analyses statistiques. Toutefois, les méthodes d'ANOVA utilisées sont très robustes, y compris pour des petits effectifs. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study measured the impact of a program design to support language in day-care on the acquisition of the language skills of children aged over 20 months. 181 children from 4 day-care took part in the program and 113 children in 4 day-care were not implied in this one were compared using several direct and indirect language measures in their last year of day-care (beginning and end of the year). The results concluded that the program did not improve significantly the language skills. Several interpretations are proposed including the professional practices and the children's development.
... Il serait utile de leur proposer des outils pour mettre en place des ateliers qui tiennent compte des langues pratiquées par les enfants. Les structures d'accueil de la petite enfance pourraient ainsi mieux prendre en compte la singularité de chaque enfant et la pluralité culturelle des familles, en s'inspirant des pratiques éducatives d'autres pays européens (Hélot et Rubio, 2013 ;Peeters, 2016 De plus, la multiplication des sous-groupes constitués en fonction des variables secondaires (nombre d'ateliers, profils des enfants ayant reçu ou non une prise en charge particulière, langues parlées à la maison) fait que certains groupes ont de petits effectifs et limite le nombre d'analyses statistiques. Toutefois, les méthodes d'ANOVA utilisées sont très robustes, y compris pour des petits effectifs. ...
... Il serait utile de leur proposer des outils pour mettre en place des ateliers qui tiennent compte des langues pratiquées par les enfants. Les structures d'accueil de la petite enfance pourraient ainsi mieux prendre en compte la singularité de chaque enfant et la pluralité culturelle des familles, en s'inspirant des pratiques éducatives d'autres pays européens (Hélot et Rubio, 2013 ;Peeters, 2016). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Disruptive innovation in education The idea of scientific advice has become a key element in the policy-making process in the EU. Governance mechanisms have a significant impact on how scientific knowledge is turned into policy, a process which involves many different institutions and individuals. ECEC is a relatively new field in European policy cooperation, and thus can have an innovative impact on the current structures and mechanisms by which scientific evidence and knowledge are channelled into policy making, in general, and in the education field, in particular. In addition, being - at least partially- outside the confines of compulsory education systems, but aiming to be recognised as part of education, ECEC systems can lead to a change in the school education discourse, in the policy making process, on the one hand, and in the education process itself, on the other, including curriculum, and assessment. The European or international context can accommodate out-of- the box thinking and processes, and, if these can be linked to bottom up demand, they then trickle down into the national policy-making systems. These processes have the potential to develop more effective policy learning and policy formation mechanisms at national, regional and local level.
Chapter
Full-text available
Pathways to Professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care is concerned with a growing interest from policy and research in the professionalisation of the early childhood workforce. Illustrated by in-depth case studies of innovative and sustainable pathways to professionalisation, it recognises the importance of a systemic approach to professionalisation across all levels of the early childhood. The authors of this wide-ranging book share insights of professionalism from various European countries and suggest that professionalism in early childhood unfolds best in a ‘competent system’.
Chapter
The chapter describes the actions through which the Municipality of Pistoia, Italy, has implemented a substantial and continuous investment in sustaining the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. The case of Pistoia is a prime example of how the municipal governance of a system of ECEC services can supply quantitatively consistent ECEC provision while ensuring its good quality. It is argued that professionalism is a key-element of the quality of Italian municipal ECEC and highlight how continuous professional support contributes to develop it and makes it a major dimension in a competent ECEC system.
Book
Pathways to professionalism in ECEC is concerned with a growing interest from policy and research in the professionalisation of the early childhood workforce. Illustrated by in-depth case studies of innovative and sutainable pathways to professionalisation, it recognizes the importance of a systemic approach to professionalisation across all levels of the ECEC sector. The authors of this wide-ranging book share insights of professionalism from various European countries and suggest that professionalism in EC unfolds best in a 'competent system. '
Article
Article sur la recherche CoRe (Competences requirements in Eraly childhood Education) commanditée par la direction générale de l' education et Culture de la Commission Européenne. CoRe a enquêté auprès de d' experts de 17 pays et mené sept études de cas approfondies sur les compétences réquiqes pour travailler avec les jeunes enfant ( 0-6 ans).