Technical ReportPDF Available

Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in Early Childhood Education and Care: Pathways towards Qualification . NESET II / Analytical Report

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

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. In many countries, part of the workforce is represented by low qualified ECEC assistants. In the CoRe study, assistants are defined as ‘invisible workers’, meaning that their presence is usually not taken into account in policy documents, and that they have far fewer possibilities of qualification and of professional development than core practitioners do. Data from the last Eurydice report shows that ECEC attendance among children under 3 is very low across Europe (European commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). The same report underlines that for about 30 % of parents, the low quality of ECEC services represents a barrier to use them. Improving the competences of all staff (core practitioners and assistants) would improve the services’ quality, which would in turn attract parents to ECEC services. Investing in the professionalization of assistants represents a key element for ECEC quality improvement, especially since in a number of countries the share of assistants in the services is rapidly growing (see 2.1., Table 1). This growth needs to be accompanied by a strong investment in competent systems that value the contributions of all staff, and involve the whole workforce in continuous professional development. Otherwise, in response to budget constraints or if reforms are too hurried, assistants may be hired over their more qualified colleagues and this could lead to a “deprofessionalisation” of ECEC staff. Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC Building on the findings of the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016), we review the profiles of ECEC assistants in 15 European countries1 and their professionalization opportunities. We then make recommendations on how to develop coherent pathways towards qualification and continuous professional development (CPD) for assistants. In addition, we present examples of successful pathways towards qualification and CPD in three selected European countries (Denmark, France, Slovenia).
Content may be subject to copyright.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in
Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC):
Pathways towards Qualification
NESET II AR1/2016 Analytical Report
This document has been prepared for the European Commission; however, it reflects the views only of the authors, and the
Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Europe Direct is a service to help you find answers
to your questions about the European Union.
Freephone number (*):
00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11
(*) The information given is free, as are most calls (though some operators, phone boxes or hotels may
charge you).
More information on the European Union is available on the Internet (http://europa.eu).
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016
ISBN 978-92-79-61963-2
doi: 10.2766/898530
© European Union, 2016
Cover image: © depositphotos.com
Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
3
Please cite this publication as:
Peeters, J.; Sharmahd, J.;   Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC):
Pathways towards QualificationNESET II report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016. doi: 10.2766/898530
AUTHORS:
Jan Peeters, VBJK, University of Gent (BE)
Nima Sharmahd, VBJK
Irma, Budginaitė, PPMI
CONTRIBUTORS:
Rūta Mašidlauskaitė, PPMI
Florence Pirard, Belgium (fr)
Christele Van Nieuwenhuyzen, Belgium (fl)
Stig Lund and Jytte Juul Jensen, Denmark
Marie Paul Thollon Behar and Myriam Mony, France
Katerina Vassilikou, Greece
Noirin Hayes, Ireland
Regina Sabaliauskienė, Lithuania
Anna del Barrio and Anke van Keulen, the Netherlands
Theresa Ogrodzinska, Poland
Carmen Anghelescu, Romania
Tatjana Vonta and Jerneja Jager, Slovenia
Ana Ancheta, Spain
Ana Tonberg, Sweden
Claire Cameron and Linda Miller, the United Kingdom
Inge Schreyer and Pamela Oberhuemer, Germany
Lijdia Miskelijn, Serbia
PEER REVIEWERS:
Jana Huttova, External consultant and advisor to OSF
Noirin Hayes, Trinity College Dublin
LANGUAGE EDITOR:
Jonathan Boyd, Freelance Copy-Editor/ Proof-reader
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
4
CONTENTS
CONTENTS ......................................................................................................................................... 4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................... 5
Key findings................................................................................................................................................... 6
Key policy implications and recommendations ............................................................................................ 7
FR EXEC. SUMMARY ......................................................................................................................... 10
DE EXEC. SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................ 16
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................. 22
1.1. The crucial role of the workforce in providing quality early childhood education and care ........... 22
1.2. Key definitions .................................................................................................................................. 24
1.3. Holistic approach .............................................................................................................................. 24
1.4. Assistants in ECEC ............................................................................................................................. 25
1.5. Aims and research questions ........................................................................................................... 27
1.6. Method ............................................................................................................................................. 27
CHAPTER 2: PROFILES OF ASSISTANTS IN ECEC IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES: AN OVERVIEW ................. 30
2.1. Share of assistants in the ECEC workforce ....................................................................................... 30
2.2. Qualification ..................................................................................................................................... 31
2.3. Professional and training competence profiles ............................................................................... 33
2.4. Continuous professional development ............................................................................................ 38
2.5. Diversity within the workforce ......................................................................................................... 39
2.6. Discussion ......................................................................................................................................... 41
CHAPTER 3: GOOD PRACTICES: EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PATHWAYS TOWARDS QUALIFICATION AND
CPD FOR ASSISTANTS ....................................................................................................................... 43
3.1. Opportunities for assistants in some European Countries .................................................................. 43
3.2. Examples of pathways towards qualification and continuous professional development ................. 43
3.2.1. Denmark: measures for the initial qualification ................................................................. 43
3.2.2. Slovenia: a growing path for the whole team through continuous professional
development .................................................................................................................................... 46
3.2.3. France: investing in initial qualification for low qualified professionals ............................. 49
3.3. Conclusions .......................................................................................................................................... 52
CHAPTER 4: KEY POLICY IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................... 53
REFERENCES .................................................................................................................................... 57
ANNEXES ......................................................................................................................................... 63
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
5
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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
to be interdependent and on equal footing (UNESCO, 2010; European Commission,
2011; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014)  
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.
     
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
 (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   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   good education with
continuous professional development, which includes providing staff with regular opportunities to co-
reflect with their team members on their ideas and practices.
Creating competent systems continues to be a challenge in the EU: the requirements and competences
for ECEC workers differ between countries, the qualifications of ECEC staff in Europe remain low (see 2.2.,
Table 2), and generally there is too little investment in strong systems of continuous professional
development (see 2.4.).
In many countries, part of the workforce is represented by low qualified ECEC assistants. In the CoRe
study, , meaning that their presence is usually not taken into
account in policy documents, and that they have far fewer possibilities of qualification and of professional
development than core practitioners do. Data from the last Eurydice report shows that ECEC attendance
among children under 3 is very low across Europe (European commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat,
2014). The same report underlines that for about 30 % of parents, the low quality of ECEC services
represents a barrier to use them. Improving the competences of all staff (core practitioners and
assistants) would improve quality, which would in turn attract parents to ECEC services.
Investing in the professionalization of assistants represents a key element for ECEC quality improvement,
especially since in a number of countries the share of assistants in the services is rapidly growing (see 2.1.,
Table 1). This growth needs to be accompanied by a strong investment in competent systems that value
the contributions of all staff, and involve the whole workforce in continuous professional development.
Otherwise, in response to budget constraints or if reforms are too hurried, assistants may be hired over
their more qualified colleagues and this could lead deprofessionalisation of ECEC staff.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
6
Building on the findings of the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016), we review the
profiles of ECEC assistants in 15 European countries1 and their professionalization opportunities. We then
make recommendations on how to develop coherent pathways towards qualification and continuous
professional development (CPD) for assistants. In addition, we present examples of successful pathways
towards qualification and CPD in three selected European countries (Denmark, France, Slovenia).
Key findings
The first part of our report gives an overview on the situation concerning assistants in the 15 Member
States involved in the study.
The data indicates that:
stands in sharp contrast to the
number of assistants working in ECEC services, which in some countries can be quite high (40-50 % of
the workforce) (for a close look on the share of assistants in each country, see 2.1., Table 1).
Assistants often have low or no qualification (see 2.2., Table 2) and there are few opportunities for
them to start a path towards the same qualification as that of a core practitioner. We suggest that
ily need to have a specific initial qualification for the job as assistant, but once
they are hired, there needs to be a strong investment in competent systems which respect and reward
the work of all staff (including assistants). We also suggest that assistants can be given job mobility
opportunities by investing in adapted pathways towards qualification (see 3.2.1. and 3.2.3.).
Assistants have fewer opportunities of continuous professional development than core practitioners
do (see 2.4.). Time to plan and reflect together as team with core practitioners is also lacking. Most
European countries still do not fund non-contact time for staff, and when this time is allocated, it is
usually to core practitioners alone, not assistants. However, our study describes some notable
exceptions where countries allocated time to all staff, including assistants, for co-reflection and
continuous in-service training (see 2.4. and 3.2.2.).
Generally speaking, assistants do not have official competence profiles, either for their profession or
for their training. The descriptions of competences in countries that do happen to have them are often
described and framed as technical or         
assistants are recognised by national regulations or in individual settings, assistants are at risk of being
perceived as merely technical workers. This division of labour between core practitioners and
assistants may reinforce a hierarchy between education and care, one that reduces education to
cognitive development (Van Laere et al., 2012). This perspective impedes a holistic approach to
education and care, one that recognises the educative role of caring and the caring role of education
(Hayes, 2007; 2008).
The countries included in this study do not collect statistics about the socio-economic or cultural
background of assistants in their respective ECEC sectors. However, according to the national experts
consulted in this study, the share of practitioners with ethnic minority background may indeed be
higher among assistants than among core practitioners. The presence of assistants within the ECEC
workforce contributes to its diversity, which may increase the ability of staff to effectively engage with
the diversities and commonalities amongst children and families. In order to improve these aspects, a
1 The countries analyzed in this study are: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Lithuania,
Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
7
strong path of CPD, during which practitioners reflect on their pedagogical practice under the
supervision of pedagogical guidance, is needed.
The examples from the three selected countries show how it can be possible to invest in:
1) specific adapted pathways that give assistants the possibility of raising their qualification, making it
possible to combine working and studying. This can happen by: a) creating specific quota systems in
which a certain number of places on a bachelor training course is reserved for experienced but
unqualified workers; b) building-bridge courses for people with ethnic minority background and low
socio-economic status; c) recognizing previously acquired competences; d) repeatedly relating theory
to practice during the studies; e) supporting the team that the assistant works with to help them all
cope with the change of professional identity the assistant-student may experience over the course of
the training (see recommendation n. 3).
2) opportunities of continuous professional development for all staff, including assistants. This requires
investment in a) child-free hours for core practitioners and assistants; b) meetings to reflect together
on their pedagogical practice; c) a system of pedagogical guidance or coaching; d) a system of
monitoring that guarantees that assistants get the opportunity to follow the established CPD (see
recommendations).
Specifically, Denmark gives an example concerning adapted pathways towards qualification; France
provides a specific qualifying initial training for low qualified professionals who wish to combine work and
study; Slovenia gives an interesting example concerning the investment in continuous professional
development for the whole staff.
Key policy implications and recommendations
Our study recommends several strategies that address the condition of assistants in the ECEC sector.
Policy experimentation in EU Member States should combine these strategies, beginning with small scale
experimentations.
The main conclusions and recommendations of this report are:
A hierarchical division between education and care exists in both split and unitary systems, which is
reinforced when distinctions are drawn between the roles of core practitioners and assistants. In
contrast, a holistic view of education and care, in which cognitive, emotional, and social aspects are
assigned the same value and are seen to be interdependent advises that such distinctions be
downplayed.
Recommendations
Policies towards ECEC should be focused on the integration of care and education across institutional, regional and
national levels.
Assistants, together with the other ECEC stakeholders (practitioners, parents, local communities, schools, training
institutions, local, regional, and national governments, and European policy-makers), should be involved in the
development of a holistic view of education. This holistic view should be integrated throughout curricula, competence
profiles, initial training and continuous professional development.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
8
meaning that their presence is usually not taken into account in
policy documents. Data on assistants in European countries, their educational and socio-cultural
background, competences, gender and other socio-demographic characteristics are insufficient.
Recommendations
Policy makers should make this group visible by collecting nationwide data about the number of assistants, their gender
and socio-cultural background.
Assistants should be mentioned and included in all policy documents that refer to staff in the ECEC sector.
At an internat, data collection concerning staff in the ECEC sector should include data
on assistants.
Assistants have fewer possibilities to raise their qualification. There is a need to develop adapted
pathways to qualification for assistants. Assistants should not necessarily need to have a specific initial
qualification when they start working, but once they are hired, there ought to be opportunities of job
mobility for them, through adapted pathways towards qualification. This does not mean that all
assistants need to enter a path towards a qualification. It simply means that a competent system
should attract those who want a qualification towards one, and facilitate their path.
Recommendations
Policy makers need to create pathways to the same level of qualification as the core practitioners, with specific attention
  previously acquired competences; 2) linking theory and practice by
methods of group reflections on practice; 3) foreseeing pedagogical guidance in the service; 4) supporting students with
an ethnic minority background and with low socio-economic status.
The employment of assistants is an important tool to attract more male educators, which benefit from
being put in contact with networks of other male practitioners during their pathway towards
qualification.
Recommendations
Policy makers in Member States should create pathways to qualification designed to attract male assistants, and place
male assistants into networks with other male educators.
Employment offices should act to attract young males to the profession of assistant, then guide them towards a
qualification as core practitioners.
Several experts underline that a high number of assistants, especially in larger cities, have an ethnic-
minority background or low socio-economic status. Their qualifications, language, gender, and socio-
cultural background, lend diversity to the ECEC workforce.
Recommendations
Member States should invest in hiring a diverse workforce in ECEC services in terms of language, gender, socio-cultural
background. This diverse workforce needs to be accompanied by pedagogical guidance.
The individual competences of the ECEC workforce should be placed within , in
which a good initial training for core practitioners, and adapted pathways to qualification for
assistants, is followed up with continuous professional development activities for all staff.
Recommendations
Policy makers in Member States should invest in establishing continuous professional development for all staff,
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
9
including assistants. In order to deliver, there must be:
Child-free hours for core practitioners and assistants: contracts should guarantee an amount of paid hours
without children during which core practitioners and assistants can reflect on their practice;
Meetings to reflect together on pedagogical practice: planning, observations and documentation. These
meetings should include all member of the team;
A system of pedagogical guidance or coaching that supports the team in their reflection;
A system of monitoring of the CPD that guarantees that assistants are able to follow the established CPD
opportunities.
The competences and experiences used for the job as assistant are rarely valued or articulated as part
of a distinctive professional profile; there are only rarely official professional and training competence
profiles for assistants.
Recommendations
Member states need to develop professional competences profiles and training competences profiles for assistants
that are defined in broad terms 
Considering the diverse society we live in, ECEC staff (core professionals and assistants) needs complex
broad competences to become able to dialogue, to negotiate and to reflect on practice.
Recommendations
Initial training and continuous professional development both need to focus on broad socio-pedagogical competences to
prepare staff for a diverse workplace.
More research is needed in this sector to know what roles assistants develop in ECEC, how assistants
perceive their role, and whether the presence of assistants widens the gap between care and
education.
Recommendations
Policy makers and research centres should finance further research in this field, with specific attention to exploring the
different roles of assistants.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
10
FR EXEC. SUMMARY
Il existe un large consensus parmi les chercheurs, les organisations et les décideurs politiques pour dire
      ccueil de la petite enfance, et en définitive les résultats pour les
enfants et leurs familles, dépendent de la formation et des compétences du personnel. Au niveau
           priorités
             
européenne, 2015a) 
     

personnel compétent capable de travailler dans un cadre holistique et qui comprend que les concepts
 accueil    éducation           ;
Commission européenne, 2011 ; Commission européenne/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014) (voir la
section « Approche holistique 
Le c
       


          plus la
               
   
tant que professionnels est la clé. Le développement professionnel a un énorme impact sur la qualité de
la pédagogie et sur le développement des enfants. 
             e
            
maternels, etc.) aide à créer un agenda partagé et une compréhension commune de la qualité » (groupe

         ; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016), les compétences
individuelles seules sont insuffisantes pour garantir la qualité. Il est nécessaire de mettre en place un
« système compétent » qui inclut une collaboration entre les individus, les équipes et les institutions et
             
système doit être basé sur une bonne formation initiale du personnel et sur un développement
permanent de la formation continue des professionnels , ce qui implique de proposer aux équipes des
opportunités régulières de co-
La création de systèmes compétents res : les exigences et compétences requises pour
                
             urope (voir 2.2.,
tableau            
de la formation continue des professionnels est trop faible (voir 2.4.).

              travailleurs
invisibles               
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
11
documents politi           
développement professionnel que les travailleurs principaux2. Les données du dernier rapport Eurydice
 petite enfance par les enfants
de moins de 3 ans est très faible en Europe (Commission européenne/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). Le
même rapport souligne que pour environ 30   

   
qui amènerait en conséquence les parents à y faire davantage appel.
           

que dans de nombreux pays le recours à des assistants pour ce type de services est en forte augmentation
(voir 2.1., tableau           
systèmes compétents qui valorisent les contributions de tout le personnel et impliquent l 
forces actives dans un développement professionnel continu. Faute de quoi, en réponse à des contraintes

leurs collègues davantage qualifiés, ce qui pourrait entraîner une « -professionnalisation » du personnel

 ; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016), nous passons en
revue les profils des assista3 de
même que leurs opportunités de professionnalisation. Nous faisons ensuite des recommandations sur la
façon de développer des parcours de qualification cohérents et un développement professionnel continu
(DPC) pour les assistants. Nous présentons en outre des exemples de parcours de qualification et de DPC
couronnés de succès dans trois pays européens sélectionnés (Danemark, France, Slovénie).
Principaux constats
La première partie 

Les données indiquent que :
 invisibilité           la recherche et les
        
services, ce nombre pouvant être très élevé dans certains pays (40-50 % du personnel) (pour plus de
détails sur le recours aux assistants dans chaque pays, voir 2.1., tableau 1).

2.2., tableau              


aire de réaliser un fort investissement dans des

            
2Travailleur principal correspond à une qualification de niveau bachelor ou master
3Les pays analysés dans cette étude sont les suivants           
es Pays-Bas, la Pologne, la Roumanie, le Royaume-Uni, la Serbie, la Slovénie, la Suède.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
12
de mobilité professionnelle en investissant dans des parcours de qualification adaptés
(voir 3.2.1. et 3.2.3.).
  
principaux (voir 2.4.). Le temps alloué à la  
principaux fait également défaut. La plupart des pays européens ne finance toujours pas le temps sans
                éral
uniquement aux travailleurs principaux et non aux assistants. Cependant, notre étude décrit quelques
              
assistants, pour la co-réflexion et la formation continue (voir 2.4. et 3.2.2.).
De manière générale, les assistants ne présentent pas de profils de compétences officiels, tant en ce
qui concerne leur profession que leur formation. La description des compétences dans les pays où elle
existe se limite souvent à de   accueil ». Même lorsque le poste et les
compétences des assistants sont reconnus par les réglementations nationales ou sur le plan individuel,
te division du travail
entre travailleurs principaux et assistants est susceptible de renforcer une certaine hiérarchie entre
  
  
 ; 2008).
Les pays considérés dans cette étude ne collectent pas de données statistiques concernant le contexte
socio-
la petite enfance. Toutefois, selon les experts nationaux consultés dans le cadre de cette étude, le
recours à du personnel issu de minorités ethniques semble effectivement plus répandu parmi les
            

du personnel à composer avec les éléments de diversité et de communauté existant parmi les enfants

dans le cadre duquel les travailleurs peuvent réfléchir sur leurs pratiques pédagogiques de façon
guidée et supervisée.
              
dans :
            eurs
qualifications, en leur permettant de combiner travail et études. Ceci est possible en : a) créant des
systèmes de quotas spécifiques consistant à réserver un certain nombre de places dans un cours de
formation de niveau de bachelor pour les travaille ; b)
créant des cours passerelles pour les personnes issues de minorités ethniques et présentant un statut
socio-économique bas ; c) reconnaissant les compétences acquises au préalable ; d) faisant
régulièrement le lien entre théorie et pratique au cours des études     
  
-         formation (voir la recommandation
3).
2) des 
les assistants. Ceci implique des investissements dans a) des heures hors de la présence des enfants
pour les travailleurs principaux et les assistants ; b) des réunions pour réfléchir ensemble sur les
pratiques pédagogiques ; c) un système de suivi ou de coaching pédagogique ; d) un système de
         le DPC établi (voir les
recommandations).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
13
Plus spécifiquement, le Danemark constitue un exemple en matière de parcours de qualification adaptés ;
la France propose une formation initiale spécifique pour les professionnels peu qualifiés qui souhaitent
combiner travail et études          

Implications et recommandations politiques clés
Notre étude recommande plusieurs stratégies portant sur le statut des assistants dans le secteur de
        

Les principales conclusions et recommandations de ce rapport sont les suivantes :
La division hiérarchique entre éducation et accueil existe à la fois dans les systèmes séparés et
unitaires et est renforcée lorsque des distinctions sont faites entre les rôles de travailleurs principaux
              
aspects cognitifs, émotionnels et sociaux ont la même valeur et sont considérés comme
interdépendants, préconise de minimiser de telles distinctions.
Recommandations
intégration de l’accueil
et de l’éducation aux niveaux institutionnels, régionaux et nationaux.
Les assistants, ainsi que les autres parties prenantes de l’éducation et de l’accueil de la petite enfance (travailleurs
principaux, parents, communautés locales, écoles, centres de formations, administrations locales, régionales et
nationales, et décideurs politiques européens), doivent être impliqués  
  vision holistique doit être totalement intégrée dans les programmes d’études, les profils de
compétences, les formations initiales et le développement professionnel continu.
Les assistants restent des « travailleurs invisibles        
habituellement pas prise en compte dans les documents politiques. Les données sur les assistants dans
les pays européens (profil éducatif et socio-culturel, compétences, sexe et autres caractéristiques
démographiques) sont insuffisantes.
Recommandations
Les décideurs politiques doivent redonner de la visibilité à ce groupe en collectant au niveau national des données sur
leur nombre, leur sexe et leur profil socio-culturel.
Les assistants doivent être mentionnés et inclus dans tous les documents politiques faisant référence au personnel du

Au niveau international (OCDE, enquête TALIS...), la collecte de données portant sur le personnel du secteur de

             
parcours adapt   

sont embauchés, il doit exister des opportunités de mobilité professionnelle pour eux, par le biais de
 
             
souhaitent augmenter leurs qualifications et faciliter leur parcours.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
14
Recommandations
               
travailleurs principaux, en veillant plus particulièrement à : 1) reco
 ; 2) faire le lien entre théorie et pratique par des méthodes de réflexion en
groupe sur la pratique ; 3) prévoir un suivi pédagogique dans le service ; 4) soutenir les étudiants issus de minorités
ethniques et présentant un statut socio-économique bas.
           
éducateurs, qui bénéficient de la mise en contact avec un résea
leur parcours de qualification.
Recommandations
Les décideurs politiques des États membres doivent créer des parcours de qualification conçus pour attirer les assistants
hommes et placer des assistants hommes dans des 
 jeunes hommes  
guider vers une qualification de travailleurs principaux.
Plusieurs experts soulignent         
sont issus de minorités ethniques ou présentent un statut socio-économique bas. Leurs qualifications,
leur langue, leur sexe et leur profil socio-culturel confèrent de la diversité a

Recommandations
               
     rofil socio- 
accompagnée par un suivi pédagogique.

placées dans le cadre de « systèmes compétents », consistant à fournir une bonne formation initiale
aux travailleurs principaux et des parcours de qualification adaptés aux assistants, avec des activités de

Recommandations
Les décideurs politiques d        développement professionnel
continu pour l’ensemble du personnel, y compris les assistants. Dans ce but, il convient de prévoir :
des heures sans contact avec les enfants pour les travailleurs principaux et les assistants : les contrats doivent
              
assistants peuvent réfléchir sur leurs pratiques ;
des réunions pour réfléchir ensemble aux pratiques pédagogiques : planification, observations et
 ;
un système de suivi pédagogique ou de coaching  ;
un système de surveillance du DPC qui garantit aux assistants la possibilité de bénéficier des opportunités de
DPC établies.
            
          existe que rarement des
profils de compétences professionnelles et de formation officiels pour les assistants.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
15
Recommandations
Les États membres doivent développer des profils de compétences professionnelles et des profils de compétences de
formation pour les assistants, qui soient définis dans des termes généraux et basés sur une vision holistique des besoins

               
    ce (travailleurs principaux et assistants) doit présenter des compétences
élargies et complexes pour être en mesure de dialoguer, négocier et réfléchir sur les pratiques.
Recommandations
La formation initiale et le développement professionnel continu doive       larges
compétences socio-pédagogiques afin de préparer le personnel à un milieu de travail diversifié.
De nouvelles recherches sont nécessaires dans ce secteur pour savoir quels sont les rôles développés
par les assista

Recommandations
Les décideurs politiques et les centres de recherche doivent financer de nouvelles recherches dans ce domaine, dans

Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
16
DE EXEC. SUMMARY
In Wissenschaft, Organisationen und Politik herrscht breiter Konsens darüber, dass die Qualität der
frühkindlichen Betreuung, Bildung und Erziehung (FBBE) und letzten Endes der Erfolg von Kindern und
Familien von gut ausgebildeten und kompetenten Pädagogen abhängt. Auf europäischer Ebene wird die
Wichtigkeit qualifizierter Arbeitskräfte in den neuen Prioritäten für die strategische Zusammenarbeit auf
dem Gebiet der allgemeinen und beruflichen Bildung (Europäische Kommission, 2015a) anerkannt, in
denen die Professionalisierung des Personals zu den Schwerpunkten der weiteren Arbeit im Bereich FBBE
gezählt wird. Wie zahlreiche Studien und Berichte betonen, hängt die Qualität der FBBE von
kompetentem Personal ab, das in der Lage ist, in einem ganzheitlichen Rahmen zu arbeiten, und weiß,
dass Betreuung, Bildung und Erziehung ineinander greifen und gleichwertig sind (UNESCO, 2010;
Europäische Kommission, 2011; Europäische Kommission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014) (siehe auch
den Abschnitt ganzheitlicher Rahmenin der Einleitung).
Der Europäische Qualifikationsrahmen für die FBBE (Thematische Arbeitsgruppe der Europäischen
Kommission zur FBBE, 2014) unterstreicht, welch wichtigen Beitrag das Personal im Bereich FBBE dabei
leistet, die pädagogische Qualität der Angebote für Kleinkinder zu verbessern. Der Europäische
Qualifikationsrahmen für die FBBE repräsentiert den Konsens von Vertretern der 25 EU-Mitgliedstaaten
plus der Türkei und Norwegen, dem Eurydice-Netz, dem European Trade Union Committee for Education
(ETUCE) und der OECD. Dort heißt es: Professionelle Anerkennung für das Personal in der FBBE ist
entscheidend. Die berufliche Entwicklung hat einen immensen Einfuss auf das pädagogische Können des
Personals und auf die Erziehungsresultate bei den Kindern. Die Entwicklung einheitlicher Aus- und
Weiterbildungsprogramme für alle Berufsgruppen, die in der FBBE arbeiten (z. B. KindergärtnerInnen,
AssistentInnen, ErzieherInnen, Tagesmütter usw.), trägt dazu bei, eine gemeinsame Agenda und einen
einheitlichen Qualitätsbegriff zu schaffen.(Thematische Arbeitsgruppe der EK zur FBBE, 2014, 9).
Wie bereits in der CoRe-Studie (Urban u. a., 2011; Vandenbroeck u. a., 2016) festgestellt wurde, reichen
individuelle Kompetenzen allein nicht aus, um Qualität zu gewährleisten. Man braucht ein kompetentes
System, in dem einzelne Mitarbeiter, Teams und Institutionen zusammenarbeiten und von der
politischer Ebene kompetent gesteuert werden. Außerdem gehört zu einem kompetenten System, dass
die gute Ausbildung des Personals durch ständige Fortbildung weiter ausgebaut wird, wobei die
Mitarbeiter außerdem regelmäßig die Möglichkeit haben, gemeinsam mit ihren Teamkollegen eigene
Ideen und Verfahren kritisch zu hinterfragen.
Die Schaffung kompetenter Systeme ist in der EU jedoch weiterhin ein Problem. Die Anforderungen an
und die Ausbildung von FBBE-Personal sind in jedem Land anders, die Qualifikation von FBBE-Personal
bleibt gering (siehe 2.2, Tabelle 2), und es wird überall zu wenig in stabile Systeme für die fortlaufende
berufliche Weiterbildung investiert (siehe 2.4).
In vielen Ländern stellen gering qualifizierte pädagogische Ergänzungskräfte einen Teil des
Erziehungspersonals. In der CoRe-Studie werden Ergänzungskräfte als unsichtbare Arbeitskräfte
bezeichnet, weil sie in politischen Dokumenten oft nicht berücksichtigt werden und über weit weniger
Möglichkeiten zur Qualifizierung und beruflichen Weiterbildung verfügen als pädagogische Fachkräfte.
Die Daten des letzten Eurydice-Berichts zeigen, dass in Europa nur ein kleiner Teil der Kinder unter drei
Jahren an der FBBE teilhat (Europäische Kommission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). In dem Bericht
wird auch betont, dass rund 30 % der Eltern entsprechende Angebote aufgrund der schlechten Qualität
nicht in Anspruch nehmen möchten. Eine Erhöhung der Qualifikation aller Mitarbeiter (Fach- und
Ergänzungskräfte) würde die Qualität der Angebote verbessern und dadurch gleichzeitig die FBBE für
Eltern attraktiver machen.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
17
Die Investition in eine Professionalisierung der Ergänzungskräfte stellt ein wichtiges Element zur
Verbesserung der FBBE-Qualität dar, insbesondere weil in einigen Ländern der Anteil der
Ergänzungskräfte am gesamten FBBE-Angebot rapide zunimmt (siehe 2.1, Tabelle 1). Diese Zunahme muss
von umfassenden Investitionen in kompetente Systeme begleitet werden, die den Beitrag aller
Mitarbeiter anerkennen und allen Arbeitskräften eine ständige berufliche Weiterbildung ermöglichen.
Andernfalls werden möglicherweise aufgrund von Haushaltszwängen oder übereilten Reformen mehr
Ergänzungskräfte als Fachkräfte eingestellt und das FBBE-Personal damit deprofessionalisiert.
Anhand der Ergebnisse der CoRe-Studie (Urban u. a., 2011; Vandenbroeck u. a., 2016) haben wir das
Berufsprofil von pädagogischen Ergänzungskräften in der FBBE4 und ihre Chancen zur Professionalisierung
in 15 europäischen Ländern untersucht. Auf dieser Grundlage haben wir Empfehlungen für die
Entwicklung einheitlicher Wege der Qualifikation und der fortlaufenden beruflichen Weiterbildung für
Ergänzungskräfte erarbeitet. Außerdem stellen wir beispielhaft erfolgreiche Wege der Qualifikation und
Weiterbildung für pädagogische Ergänzungskräfte aus drei ausgewählten europäischen Ländern
(Dänemark, Frankreich, Slowenien) vor.
Wichtige Ergebnisse
Der erste Teil unseres Berichts bietet einen Überblick über den aktuellen Stand im Bereich der
pädagogischen Ergänzungskräfte in den 15 untersuchten Mitgliedstaaten.
Dies sind die wichtigsten Ergebnisse:
Die Unsichtbarkeit von Ergänzungskräften der FBBE in wissenschaftlichen und politischen
Dokumenten steht in scharfem Kontrast zur großen Zahl der Ergänzungskräfte, die FBBE-
Dienstleistungen erbringen. Ihr Anteil ist in manchen Ländern sehr hoch (40-50 % aller Beschäftigten).
(Detaillierte Zahlen zum Anteil der Ergänzungskräfte in den einzelnen Ländern finden sich im Abschnitt
2.1, Tabelle 1.)
Ergänzungskräfte sind oft nicht oder nur gering qualifiziert (siehe 2.2, Tabelle 2), und es gibt für sie nur
wenig Wege zu einer Qualifikation, die derjenigen von Fachkräften entspricht. Unserer Einschätzung
nach müssen Ergänzungskräfte für ihre Stelle nicht unbedingt eine Anfangsqualifikation aufweisen.
Sobald sie jedoch eingestellt sind, sollte umfassend in kompetente Systeme investiert werden, die die
Arbeit aller Mitarbeiter (einschließlich der Ergänzungskräfte) respektiert und belohnt. Außerdem
schlagen wir vor, dass Ergänzungskräfte mehr Chancen zur beruflichen Mobilität erhalten, indem ihnen
angepasste Bildungswege zur Qualifikation angeboten werden (siehe 3.2.1. und 3.2.3.).
Ergänzungskräfte haben weniger Möglichkeiten zur fortlaufenden beruflichen Weiterbildung als
pädagogische Fachkräfte (siehe 2.4). Außerdem fehlt ihnen die Zeit, um ihre Arbeit gemeinsam mit den
Fachkräften als Team zu planen und zu überdenken. In den meisten Ländern werden pädagogischen
Kräften nur die reinen Betreuungszeiten vergütet, und wenn Stunden für andere Aufgaben vorgesehen
sind, gilt dies in der Regel nur für Fachkräfte, nicht jedoch für Ergänzungskräfte. Allerdings beschreibt
unsere Studie auch einige bemerkenswerte Ausnahmen, bei denen Länder dem gesamten Personal,
einschließlich der Ergänzungskräfte, Stunden für gemeinsame Überlegungen und eine fortlaufende
berufsbegleitende Weiterbildung zugestehen (siehe 2.4 und 3.2.2.).
Im Allgemeinen haben Ergänzungskräfte kein offizielles Kompetenzprofil für ihren Beruf oder ihre
Ausbildung. In Ländern, in denen ihre Kompetenzen definiert sind, werden häufig vor allem technische
4Für diese Studie wurden die folgenden Länder analysiert: Belgien, Dänemark, Deutschland, Griechenland, Großbritannien,
Frankreich, Irland, Litauen, Polen, Rumänien, Serbien, Slowenien, Spanien, Schweden und die Niederlande.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
18
oder pflegendeAufgaben beschrieben oder formuliert. Auch wenn Stellung und Kompetenzen von
Ergänzungskräften durch nationale Rechtsvorschriften oder individuelle Vereinbarungen anerkannt
sind, werden diese oft als rein technische Hilfskräfte wahrgenommen. Diese Arbeitsteilung zwischen
Fach- und Ergänzungskräften kann die Hierarchie zwischen Bildung und Betreuung verfestigen, die die
Bildung auf die kognitive Entwicklung reduziert (Van Laere u. a., 2012). Diese Perspektive behindert ein
ganzheitliches Verständnis von Betreuung, Bildung und Erziehung, das die erzieherische Rolle der
Betreuung und die betreuende Rolle der Bildung anerkennt (Hayes, 2007; 2008).
Die für diese Studie untersuchten Länder erheben keine statistischen Daten über den
sozioökonomischen oder kulturellen Hintergrund von Ergänzungskräften in der jeweiligen FBBE.
Allerdings dürfte nach Ansicht der für diese Studie befragten nationalen ExpertInnen der Anteil von
Menschen, die einer ethnischen Minderheit angehören, bei den Ergänzungskräften höher liegen als bei
den Fachkräften. Das heißt, die Ergänzungskräfte tragen zur Diversität des FBBE-Personals und dessen
Fähigkeit bei, angemessen mit der Diversität und den Eigenheiten von Kindern und deren Familien
umzugehen. Um diese Aspekte zu fördern, braucht es stabile Verfahren der fortlaufenden beruflichen
Weiterbildung, bei der die Ergänzungskräfte ihre pädagogische Praxis unter der Anleitung
pädagogischer Fachkräfte reflektieren.
Die Fallbeispiele aus den drei ausgewählten Ländern zeigen, dass Investitionen in die folgenden Bereiche
sinnvoll sind:
1) Speziell angepasste Bildungswege, mit denen Ergänzungskräfte ihre Qualifikation verbessern und
dabei Arbeit und Ausbildung verbinden können. Dazu gibt es viele Modelle: a) Einführung eines
speziellen Quotensystems, bei dem ein Teil der Studienplätze eines entsprechend Bachelor-
Studiengangs für gering qualifizierte Arbeitnehmer mit Berufserfahrung reserviert sind; b)
Brückenschlag-Kurse für Menschen, die einer ethnischen Minderheit oder Gruppen mit geringem
sozioökonomischen Status angehören; c) Anerkennung bereits erworbener Kompetenzen; d) ständige
Verknüpfung von Theorie und Praxis in der Ausbildung; e) Unterstützung für Teams, in denen
Ergänzungskräfte arbeiten, damit das Team den Übergang der Ergänzungskraft zu einer neuen
beruflichen Rolle im Verlauf der Ausbildung besser begleiten kann (siehe Empfehlung Nr. 3).
2) Möglichkeiten der fortlaufenden beruflichen Weiterbildung für alle pädagogischen Kräfte,
einschließlich der Ergänzungskräfte. Dazu sind Investitionen in den folgenden Bereichen notwendig: a)
kinderfreie Stunden für pädagogische Fach- und Ergänzungskräfte; b) Besprechungen zur
gemeinsamen Auswertung der pädagogischen Praxis; c) ein System der pädagogischen Anleitung und
Beratung; d) ein Kontrollsystem, das gewährleistet, dass Ergänzungskräfte die bestehenden Angebote
zur beruflichen Weiterbildung nutzen können (siehe Empfehlungen).
Die drei Fallbeispiele beschreiben angepasste Bildungswege zur Qualifizierung in Dänemark, eine spezielle
qualifizierende Grundausbildung für gering qualifizierte Kräfte, die Arbeit und Ausbildung verbinden
möchten, in Frankreich sowie, besonders interessant, Investitionen in die fortlaufende berufliche
Weiterbildung für das gesamte pädagogische Personal in Slowenien.
Wichtige politische Folgerungen und Empfehlungen
In unserer Studie werden mehrere Strategien, die sich auf die Verbesserung der Bedingungen von
Ergänzungskräften beziehen, für die FBBE empfohlen. Die EU-Mitgliedstaaten sollten diese Strategien mit
Hilfe kleinerer Pilotprojekte politisch erproben.
Dies sind die wichtigsten Schlussfolgerungen und Empfehlungen des Berichts:
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
19
Sowohl in durchgängigen als auch in nach Alter gegliederten Systemen besteht eine hierarchische
Aufteilung, die noch verstärkt wird, wenn die Rollen von Fachkräften und Ergänzungskräften
unterschiedlich definiert sind. Für eine ganzheitliche Perspektive auf Betreuung, Bildung und
Erziehung, in der kognitive, emotionale und soziale Aspekte als gleichwertig und voneinander abhängig
gesehen werden, sollte diese Hierarchie aufgeweicht werden.
Empfehlungen
Politische Initiativen im Bereich FBBE sollten auf die Integration von Betreuung, Bildung und Erziehung auf regionaler
und nationaler Ebene und in den einzelnen Bildungsinstitutionen ausgerichtet sein.
Pädagogische Ergänzungskräfte sollten gemeinsam mit anderen Akteuren der FBBE (Erziehern, Eltern, Kommunen,
Schulen, Ausbildungsinstitutionen, lokalen, regionalen und nationalen Regierungen und europäischen Politikern) an der
Entwicklung eines ganzheitlichen Begriffs von Bildung beteiligt werden. Diese ganzheitliche Perspektive sollte sich in
Lehrplänen, Kompetenzprofilen sowie in der Aus- und Weiterbildung widerspiegeln.
Ergänzungskräfte sind weiterhin unsichtbare Arbeitskräfte, weil sie in politischen Dokumenten in der
Regel nicht berücksichtigt werden. In den europäischen Ländern gibt es nicht genügend Daten über die
pädagogischen Ergänzungskräfte sowie deren Ausbildung und soziokulturellen Hintergrund,
Kompetenzen, Geschlecht und andere soziodemografische Merkmale.
Empfehlungen
Politische Entscheidungsträger sollten diese Gruppe durch eine landesweite Erfassung von Daten über die Zahl der
Ergänzungskräfte, deren Geschlecht und soziokulturellen Hintergrund sichtbar machen.
Ergänzungskräfte sollten in allen politischen Dokumenten über das Personal in der FBBE erwähnt und berücksichtigt
werden.
Auf internationaler Ebene (OECD, TALIS für die FBBE...) sollten bei der Erhebung von Daten über Arbeitskräfte im Bereich
der FBBE auch Daten über Ergänzungskräfte erhoben werden.
Ergänzungskräfte haben weniger Möglichkeiten, zusätzliche Qualifikationen zu erwerben. Deshalb
müssen angepasste Bildungswege zur Qualifizierung von Ergänzungskräften geschaffen werden.
Ergänzungskräfte müssen bei Antritt ihrer Stelle nicht unbedingt eine Anfangsqualifikation aufweisen.
Sobald sie jedoch eingestellt sind, sollte ihnen durch angepasste Wege zur Qualifikation die Chance zur
beruflichen Mobilität geboten werden. Das heißt nicht, dass sich alle pädagogischen Ergänzungskräfte
weiter qualifizieren müssen. Es sollte aber mit Hilfe eines kompetenten Systems gewährleistet sein,
dass diejenigen, die sich qualifizieren möchten, einen passenden Bildungsweg finden und diesen auch
nutzen können.
Empfehlungen
Politische Entscheidungsträger sollten Wege zu einem Qualifikationsniveau schaffen, der demjenigen von Fachkräften
entspricht, wobei besonders die folgenden Aspekte zu berücksichtigen sind: 1) Anerkennung der Berufserfahrung und der
bereits erworbenen Kompetenzen von Ergänzungskräften; 2) Verbindung von Theorie und Praxis durch Verfahren zur
gemeinsamen Bewertung von pädagogischen Verfahren; 3) pädagogische Anleitung in der Praxis; 4) besondere
Unterstützung von Anwärtern, die einer ethnischen Minderheit oder einer Gruppe mit geringem sozioökonomischen
Status angehören.
Die Beschäftigung von Ergänzungskräften ist ein wichtiges Instrument, um mehr männliche Erzieher
für den Beruf zu interessieren. Diese würden davon profitieren, wenn sie sich auf ihrem Bildungsweg
mit anderen männlichen Erziehern, die sich in Netzwerken zusammengeschlossen haben, austauschen
könnten.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
20
Empfehlungen
Politische Entscheidungsträger in den Mitgliedstaaten sollten Bildungswege schaffen, die insbesondere für männliche
Ergänzungskräfte attraktiv sind, und diese mit Netzwerken männlicher Erzieher in Kontakt bringen.
Berufsberatungsstellen sollten versuchen, junge Männer für den Beruf einer pädagogischen Ergänzungskraft zu
interessieren und sie später zu einer Qualifizierung als pädagogische Fachkraft zu ermutigen.
Mehrere Experten haben betont, dass zahlreiche Ergänzungskräfte, insbesondere in Großstädten,
einer ethnischen Minderheit oder einer sozioökonomisch benachteiligten Gruppe angehören. Ihre
Qualifikation, Sprache, ihr Geschlecht und soziokultureller Hintergrund erhöhen die Diversität der
Arbeitskräfte im Bereich der FBBE.
Empfehlungen
Die Mitgliedstaaten sollten in die Einstellung von Arbeitskräften investieren, die zu einer stärkeren Vielfalt in Bezug auf
Sprache, Geschlecht und soziokulturelle Herkunft in der FBBE beitragen. Dieses vielfältige Personal muss durch
pädagogische Anleitung begleitet werden.
Die individuellen Kompetenzen des FBBE-Personals müssen in ein kompetentes System integriert
werden, in dem eine gute Ausbildung von pädagogischen Fachkräften sowie angepasste Bildungswege
für Ergänzungskräfte durch eine fortlaufende berufliche Weiterbildung für alle Mitarbeiter ergänzt
werden.
Empfehlungen
Politische Entscheidungsträger in den Mitgliedstaaten sollten in die fortlaufende berufliche Weiterbildung aller
pädagogischen Arbeitskräfte, einschließlich der Ergänzungskräfte, investieren. Diese muss die folgenden Elemente
enthalten:
Kinderfreie Stunden für Fach- und Ergänzungskräfte: Arbeitsverträge sollten eine bestimmte Stundenzahl ohne
Kinder garantieren, in denen die Fach- und Ergänzungskräfte gemeinsam ihre pädagogische Praxis bewerten
und überdenken können.
Besprechungen zur Analyse der pädagogischen Praxis: Planung, Beobachtungen und Dokumentation. An diesen
Besprechungen sollten alle Teammitglieder teilnehmen.
Ein System der pädagogischen Anleitung oder Beratung, das das Team bei seiner Analyse unterstützt.
Ein System zur Überwachung der beruflichen Weiterbildung, mit dem gewährleistet wird, dass auch
Ergänzungskräfte die vorhandenen Weiterbildungsangebote nutzen können.
Die Kompetenzen und Erfahrungen, die in den Beruf einer pädagogischen Ergänzungskraft einfließen,
werden selten im Rahmen eines eigenständigen beruflichen Profils anerkannt oder formuliert; es gibt
nur wenige offizielle Kompetenzprofile für die Aus- und Weiterbildung von Ergänzungskräften.
Empfehlungen
Die Mitgliedstaaten müssen Kompetenzprofile für den Beruf und die Ausbildung als pädagogische Ergänzungskraft
entwickeln, die sehr weit gefasst sind und auf einem ganzheitlichen Verständnis der Bildungsbedürfnisse von
Kleinkindern beruhen.
In unseren modernen und vielfältigen Gesellschaften brauchen auch Arbeitskräfte im Bereich der FBBE
(Fach- und Ergänzungskräfte) komplexe und umfassende Kompetenzen, um mit allen Akteuren in
Dialog und Verhandlungen treten und die eigene Praxis reflektieren zu können.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
21
Empfehlungen
Sowohl Ausbildung als auch fortlaufende berufliche Weiterbildung müssen sich auf umfassende soziopädagogische
Kompetenzen konzentrieren, die die Arbeitskräfte in ihrem vielfältigen Arbeitsumfeld benötigen.
In diesem Bereich ist weitere Forschung erforderlich, um zu analysieren, welche Rolle die
pädagogische Ergänzungskraft in der FBBE einnimmt, wie sie ihre Rolle wahrnimmt und ob die
Beschäftigung von Ergänzungskräften die Kluft zwischen Betreuung einerseits und Bildung und
Erziehung andererseits vergrößert.
Empfehlungen
Politische Entscheidungsträger und Forschungseinrichtungen sollten die weitere Forschung auf diesem Gebiet
finanzieren, wobei insbesondere die unterschiedlichen Rollen pädagogischer Ergänzungskräfte analysiert werden sollten.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
22
Chapter 1: Introduction
           en the
            
Commission, 2013b). This reflects and reinforces the broad consensus that already exists among
researchers and international organisations (OECD, 2006; UNICEF, 2008) that the quality of early
childhood education and care (ECEC) depends on well-educated and competent staff.
The need to provide strong support for educators is also emphasized in the ET2020 Joint Report, which
 Many Member States report measures for enhancing teacher training and emphasize that
initial education and the continuing professional development of teachers and trainers should be fit for
purpose, combining subject matter, pedagogy and practice. Educators should be trained to deal with the
growing diversity of learners, prevent ESL and use innovative pedagogies and ICT tools in an optimal
).
Despite this agreement amongst researchers, organisations and policy makers, the qualification of ECEC
staff in Europe, especially for the 0-3 sector, remains rather low (see 2.2., Table 2). Related to this, in
many countries, part of the ECEC workforce comprises low or unqualified ECEC assistants, which in some
cases can represent 40 % or 50 % of the staff (see 2.2., Table 2).
This study aims to analyse the situation concerning the professionalization of ECEC assistants in Europe, in
order to give recommendations on how to develop coherent pathways towards their qualification and
continuous professional development.
1.1. The crucial role of the workforce in providing quality early childhood
education and care
European policies: consensus on quality
Despite the prominence of access related issues in the European agenda from the early 1990s5, the
quality of ECEC, including the support for the professional development of ECEC workforce, started to
gradually receive more attention after 2000s (Milotay, 2016).
The need to ensure the accessible provision and quality of ECEC was repeatedly recognised in a number of
policy documents, beginning with the Council conclusions (2006) on efficiency and equity in European
education and training systems. These conclusions acknowledged the important role of ECEC services,
especially for groups with a disadvantaged background6 (European Commission, 2006).
Increased political attention to this issue prompted calls for evidence based information, which led to a
thorough review of the existing policy and practice of Member States ECEC service provision7 (Urban et
al., 2011; European Commission, 2013c; European Commission, 2014a; 2014b; Akgündüz et al., 2015;
5 The issues related to early childhood education and care first appeared in the EU agenda more than two decades ago in the
to increasing access to ECEC was often linked with
the aim of bringing more women into the workforce (Vandenbroeck et al., 2016; Milotay, 2016).
6               cognitive, social and
emotional development (Aikens and Barbarin, 2008; Ballas et al., 2012; Blanden et al., 2005; Kaylor and Flores, 2008; Morgan et
al., 2009). The effects are already apparent between children by the age of 3, and they tend to become even more pronounced by
the age of 5 (European Commission, 2011, EQUALSOC Network, 2011).
7 Work carried out by the Thematic working group on ECEC, involving experts representing all Member States, as well as Norway
and Turkey; dialogue with stakeholder group composed of 55 European stakeholder organisations.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
23
Vandenbroeck et al., 2016). This review, initiated by the EC and carried out between 2012 and 2014,
resulted in the development of a proposal for a quality framework in early childhood education and care
(EC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014), which created a consensus in Europe about what constitutes quality
in ECEC. In the quality framework, a well-qualified workforce is considered particularly important when it
comes to defining the quality of ECEC. At the same time, it is recognised that initial training and
continuous professional development 
chilsIbid, p. 9).
The revised priorities for strategic cooperation in the field of education and training8 subsequently
defined the professionalisation of staff as one of the key issues requiring further work in ECEC (European
Commission, 2015a). It calls for strong support of practitioners/teachers and emphasises the need to
enhance their training by ensuring that both initial education and continuous professional development
(CPD) are well established and combine subject matter, socio-pedagogy and practice (Ibid, p. 5). Investing
in reflexivity is recognized as a fundamental part of this approach, especially when it means co-reflecting
on practice in-group, with the support of pedagogical guidance (Lazzari et al., 2013; Peeters et al., 2015b).
Co-reflection is also seen as a way to empower educational staff in dealing with the growing diversity of
children and families and in highlighting the importance of taking into account diverse backgrounds and
experiences when it comes to recruiting educational staff, since the different backgrounds among the
staff would support negotiation. All these aspects are emphasized in the revised priorities (Ibid, p. 6).
Co-reflection is an approach through which assistants can make an important contribution to raising the
overall quality of ECEC. Assistants, especially in large cities, tend to have an ethnic-minority background or
a lower socio-economic position in society, and their inclusion in ECEC adds diversity to their teams. Staff
members of diverse teams are given more opportunities to experiment with negotiation and democracy,
and gain insight into how best to work with diverse groups of children and families. As stated in the
European Quality Framework (EC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014, p. 22): services t
to the recruitment and training of personnel from minority groups are found to be more successful in
fostering participation of children from diverse background to ECEC.
Creating competent systems: the framework of the CoRe study
The above mentioned priorities are also the focus of the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck,
2016), commissioned by the DG for Education and Culture, and carried out in 15 European Member States
by the University of Gent and the University of East London.
According to the CoRe study, ECEC quality is strongly linked to a professionally competent workforce. But

individuals, teams and institutions, and which has competent governance at policy level. A competent
system needs to invest in initial training and continuous professional development for all staff. This
conceptualisation extends the traditional understanding of competence as an individual property to the
institutional and governance domain. Hence, our understanding of competence moves beyond the
acquisition of knowledge and training of skills to emb (Urban et al., 2012, p.
516).
Within this framework, the CoRe study revealed the presence of assistants in the ECEC field, and
simultaneously raised the issuethe CoRe study, assistants are identified as
 since their presence is usually not taken into account in policy documents, and they
have far fewer possibilities for qualification or professional development than do core practitioners.
8 Other key issues listed in the revised framework include: the improvement of access, focusing on disadvantaged, efficient
governance, funding and monitoring systems (European Commission, 2015).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
24
Young non-qualified people seemingly intend to use the job as an entry into the labour market (Urban et
al., 2011) but are rarely recognised with either a qualification or a promotion to the profession. Many
consequently become demotivated, leave the job, and are at a high risk of unemployment (Jensen and
Kjeldsen, 2012; Jensen and Kjeldsen, 2015).
Our study relies in large part on the findings of the CoRe study, which revealed some of the main issues
regarding the professional development of assistants. Since its publication, assistants have largely
remained and national reports (Urban et al. 2011). This study contributes to an
improved understanding of the ECEC workforce by describing the main challenges facing it, and provides
policy recommendations on how to strengthen the professionalisation of ECEC assistants.
1.2. Key definitions
This report relies on the following definitions used in the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011):
Core practitioners work directly with young children and families, usually as the main responsible of a
 group (Oberhuemer et al., 2010).
Assistants support core practitioners in working directly with children and families; assistants usually
hold a lower qualification than those held by core practitioners9.
1.3. Holistic approach
Many research studies and reports underline how quality in ECEC should encompass a broad, holistic view
of learning, caring, upbringing and social support for children, and point to the fact that the concept of
  either possible to divide them nor appropriate to rank one
superior to the other (European Commission, 2011; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat,
2014; UNESCO, 2010). As recommended by the European Quality Framework (EC Thematic Group on
ECEC, 2014), ECEC professionals, whatever their profile, should aim towards achieving quality as more
accurately signified by this holistic understanding.
This study analyses the roles and professionalization of assistants within this framework, and accordingly
maintains that the signification of quality services requires that the concepts    be
understood as inseparable (Van Laere et al., 2012). In response to the 
of the early years and the priority that it gives 
the divided roles between assistants and core practitioners (in which assistants are seen as the ones that

and education; this does not facilitate the holistic approach that we advocate.
As stated by Van Laere, Peeters and Vandenbroeck (2012, p. 534-
of tasks does not necessarily jeopardise a holistic view of education where both caring and learning are
Nevertheless, while it may not necessarily jeopardise it, it does present an obstacle: since a
higher status professional is largely responsible for one task, and a lower status professional responsible
for another, a perceived hierarchy has emerged between the tasks themselves, between education and
care. have been narrowed to denote merely teaching and learning,
which excludes and is considered superior to Isaksen et al., 2008; Twigg et al., 2011; Wolkowitz,
9 It should be noted that core practitioners do not have a higher qualification than assistants do in every country.; we are
referring to a general trend.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
25
2006). This hinders a holistic conceptualisation of education in its broadest sense; under a holistic
conceptualisation, care and education must be valued equally (Van Laere et al., 2012).
A holistic approach means adopting a systemic/integrated view on education and care, which has
implications concerning the roles and competences of the staff.      
diversity, ECEC professionals require complex competences. Relational and reflective competences have
become essential skills (Catarsi, 2003), and the ECEC workforce need to be able to negotiate, to deal with
uncertainty (Urban, 2008), and to reflect on the meanings of what they think and do (Schön, 1983. This
also extends to the relational competences practitioners need to develop in their relationships with
parents. Under a holistic view these competences, as stated in the CoRe study (2011; 2016), require the
support of , systems that offer both initial qualification and continuous professional
development opportunities for all staff to reflect on their practices. To achieve this, time must be
allocated (in terms of non-contact hours) and staff given clear guidance on how to optimally use the
allocated time to improve quality through co-reflection.
1.4. Assistants in ECEC
Qualifications
Although researchers, practitioners and policy makers in Member States agree on the importance of the
professional development of ECEC staff, the requirements and competences for ECEC workers continue to
vary between countries. The European Commission (2011) stressed that ensuring high competences in
Europe for ECEC staff was a challenge, especially in balancing the curriculum between cognitive and non-
cognitive elements (such as motivation or ability to interact with others), and in finding a reconciliation
between education and care to ensure the continuity in the individual childs educational trajectory.
In many Member States, the qualification of the ECEC workforce remains rather low (OECD, 2006;
European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). The trend is influenced by the fact that there are
differences in qualification between core practitioners and their assistants. In some countries, the
minimum level of initial qualification required for assistants is upper secondary; in others, no formal
qualification is needed (see 2.2., Table 2) (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014).
larly related to the fact that there are few possibilities for them
to start a path towards qualification, taking into account their experience and background. Not having
possibilities to start a qualification path lowers job mobility and advancement, which may demotivate
assistants during their career.
Possible roles
Whereas the role of core practitioner is generally perceived to primarily involve are
generally perceived to is predominately seen in pre-schools for
children between three to six in split systems, yet it is present even in some unitary systems, despite
notable exceptions. In services for the under-threes in split systems, there is less of a division, since the
core practitioners, mostly women, share a caring profile with their assistants.
Since the functions of care in ECEC services are usually performed by low qualified assistants (EACEA,
2009; European Commission, 2011; 2013a; Urban et al., 2011; Van Laere et al., 2012), their very presence
in a particular system indicates that there is a  in that
system, in which care is likely seen merely as an instrument to support learning (Van Laere et al., 2012).
          ssistants perform. In a follow up study to
CoRe, Van Laere et al. (2012) identify three distinct roles taken by assistants:
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
26
Teaching role: these assistants mainly contribute to better academic performance of children and help
with their learning processes (Farrell et al., 2010; Ratcliff et al., 2011; Thomas et al., 2004). Yet the
substantial increase in the number of assistants in recent years in the UK and in the US, where this role
appears, has not led to the expected improved learning outcomes and pro-social behaviour of children
(Blatchford et al., 2007, 2009; Finn and Pannozzo, 2004; Gerber et al., 2001; Hughes and Westgate,
1997; Sosinsky and Gilliam, 2011);
B           are asked to raise
educational attainment, especially in Afro- American children, by serving as role models and
bridging the gap between schools and families and communities (Abbate-Vaughn and Paugh, 2009;
Manz et al., 2010; Villegas and Clewell, 1998);
Caring r           -
being so that their teacher can focus on the learning process (Garnier, 2009, 2010, 2011; Vasse, 2008).
Barkham (2008), Dyer (1996) and Garnier (2010) point out the gendered nature of the job; according
            housewife
and mother 
Despite the critical importance of the caring role    it is less addressed in policy
documents. The teaching and bridging roles are usually emphasised over the caring role, and assistants
are primarily expected to raise the (pre-) academic achievements of children, consistent with the
schoolification of ECEC. By putting the       , their
social and emotional development is given lower priority, reflecting a non-holistic approach. This is
especially true in pre-schools (for 36-year-olds) that are increasingly perceived as a preparation to
compulsory school.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
This report is meaningful for the European policy process of Life Long Learning towards the development
of an advanced knowledge society in accordance with the objectives of the Lisbon strategy
(1720/2006/EC). Several recent proposals of European Union institutions have promoted professional
development at the political level for all ECEC workers. For instance, the European Council (2011)
promotes the professionalisation of ECEC staff and enhancement of the prestige of the profession. The
recent European Report of the Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care (2014) stresses that
ECEC workforce has to be recognised as professional. The European Commission has stated that quality in
ECEC services should be created b
             
(European Commission, 2014, p. 9).
A recent systematic review on the impact of professional development, published by Eurofound (Peeters
et al., 2015b), points out success factors for continuous professional development initiatives:
A coherent pedagogical framework or learning curriculum that builds upon research and addresses
local needs;
The active involvement of all professionals (core practitioners and assistants) in the process of
improving educational practice enacted within their settings;
A focus on practice-based learning taking place in constant dialogue with all colleagues, parents 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 facili
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
27
The case studies of CoRe show that in contexts in which pedagogical guidance is provided, childfree hours
are scheduled and reflection paths are supported, the quality of the services increase with a direct effect
on children and families (Vandenbroeck et al., 2016). These activities seem to be most effective when
they are continuous and of a certain length (Peeters et al., 2015b), favouring the growth of the team in a
coherent way.
The European Quality Framework (EC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014) proposes key principles to create
ECEC services of high quality by involving different actors as individual practitioners, teams, training
centres, local administrative institutions and non-governmental bodies. By taking good practice examples
of EU Member States that have created effective initiatives by establishing a coherent pedagogical
framework, the European Commission introduced possible forms of ECEC staff professionalisation, such
as: exchange of good practices among centres; participatory action-research and peer learning
opportunities; pedagogic guidance provided by specialised staff; training provision for ECEC centre
coordinators/managers/directors (2014, p. 33). Although all these forms are strongly promoted at the
European level, practical implementation of long-term professionalisation initiatives in Member States
still needs to be investigated.
Within this framework, the position of assistants raises important questions, considering that, although
assistants take part in many daily activities with children and families, they usually have few opportunities
of CPD.
1.5. Aims and research questions
The main purpose of this report is to explore the professional profiles of assistants in European countries
and to define possible pathways towards qualification and professional development for them. The
research focuses on the following questions:
What are the qualifications (or no qualifications) required in European Countries for the job of
assistants in ECEC?
Are there interesting paths of continuous professional development for assistants in European
countries? Are these paths shared with the core practitioners? Are there systems in which assistants
are valued by a competent system which considers their role inherently part of the educational
community?
Can these paths be adapted to other contexts?
How can policy and practice make use of these paths?
Is it correct to assume that a high percentage of assistants consist of people with ethnic-minority
background or from lower socio-economic groups, and that this profession attracts a higher
percentage of men compared with the job of core practitioners? How does this effect practice? Can
the presence of assistants support the diversity of teams? Can it support the relationship with diverse
groups of parents and children?
Considering the findings of the research, policy recommendations on the qualification and CPD for ECEC
assistants will be given.
1.6. Method
This study is mainly based on secondary data; the situation of assistants has been updated (the data
referred to core practitioners have not been updated). The profiles of assistants in ECEC have been drawn
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
28
from 15 countries: the 13 countries selected for the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011) that have assistants
employed in ECEC services, and two additional countries (Germany and Serbia), still considering
geographical balance.
The countries covered in this study are presented in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Selected countries for the study
Source: prepared by the authors.
The data on the profiles of assistants have been obtained through a semi-structured questionnaire sent to
key contact experts in the 13 countries that were included in the CoRe study (Urban et al., 2011), in order
to update the information. A similar but more detailed questionnaire has been sent to the two new
countries chosen for this report. The experts have been selected for their long-standing expertise in the
field and their previous contribution to other European studies. Additional information was received via
email or skype calls when needed. The results of this survey are given in Chapter 2. We selected the most
significant experiences of some of the countries, considering the path towards qualification and
continuous professional development for assistants. These experiences have been analysed in a deeper
way with assistance from the contact experts, and will be explained in Chapter 3. The questions refer to
official regulations and national/regional policy documents. Local policies (at the municipal level, for
instance) have not been included, although we are aware that in some countries great responsibility is
given to the local level, and this can create considerable differences in the diverse context of a country.
Considering the aims of the study, our questionnaire has been focused on the following aspects:
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
29
share of assistants within the ECEC workforce;
qualification required;
competence profiles for the training and for the profession;
possibilities of continuous professional development;
percentage of assistants with an ethnic-minority background.
The results obtained through the questionnaire (Chapter 2) are a combination of objective and subjective
data: considering the fact that often official data were not available, in some cases we asked experts to
provide estimates, for example in relation to the question about diversity.
The information on successful pathways towards qualification and continuous professional development
for assistants was gathered from the seven case studies examined by the CoRe research team and
recently updated by Vandenbroeck et al. (2016). From these case studies we selected three (France,
Denmark, Slovenia) that revealed interesting practices relating to these themes, and analysed them with a
focus on assistants. The information has been integrated with the help of the key contact experts of those
specific countries (Chapter 3).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
30
Chapter 2: Profiles of assistants in ECEC in European countries: an
overview
This section provides an overview of the situation of ECEC assistants in Europe based on the results of our
study. Considering the main points of our questionnaire, we will present results on the percentage of
assistants, their qualification, the competence profiles for the training and for the profession, the
opportunities for continuous professional development, and the percentage of assistants with an ethnic-
minority background. The data about assistants have been updated from information provided by the
national experts in each country. For the data about core practitioners we rely on the CoRe study (2011)
and on the SEEPRO study (Oberhuemer et al., 2010).
2.1. Share of assistants in the ECEC workforce
Research on assistants remains very limited and this part of the ECEC workforce remains largely invisible
in much of the international literature.    in research and reports stands in stark
contrast to the high numbers of assistants working in ECEC services. Each country involved in this study
have assistants employed in the ECEC field, but the gathered data indicate great variations in how
assistants are employed. In France, Slovenia and Lithuania, for instance, assistants represent
approximately 50 % of the workforce. In Sweden there are no statistics available but the number of
assistants in the ECEC sector is estimated to be quite high (more or less 50 %). In Denmark 60 % of the
ECEC workforce is represented by social pedagogy professionals and 40 % by assistants. In Romania
approximately 28 % of the workforce is made by assistants. In the UK the number of nursery
assistants/teaching assistants has doubled over the last fifteen years (Urban et al., 2011; Van Laere et al.,
2012). More broadly, the last Eurydice report states that: in almost half of European countries, ECEC
institutions may employ auxiliary staff/assistants to provide support to qualified education and care staff
both in settings for younger and older children (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014,
p. 96). In other countries, assistants constitute a smaller share of the ECEC staff. Further research is
needed to better understand the reasons for these differences.
An overview of the number of assistants in the EU countries selected for our study is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Share of assistants in the countries selected for the study
COUNTRY
Age group
% ASSISTANTS
1. Belgium
Flemish speaking part
2,5-6 years old
9,42 %
0-2,5 years old
0,4 %
French speaking part
2,5-6 years old
8,9 %
2. Denmark
40 %
3. France
0-2,5 years old
N.A
2,5-6 years old
50 %
4. Greece
N.A.
5. Ireland
N.A.
6. Lithuania
50 %
7. The Netherlands
4-12 years old
2,76 %
0-4 years old
N.A.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
31
COUNTRY
Age group
% ASSISTANTS
8. Poland
2-6 years old
2 %
9. Romania
0-7 years old
28 %
10. Slovenia
0-7 years old
50 %
11. Spain
N.A.
12. Sweden
N.A.
13. UK
50 %
14. Serbia
0,22 %
15. Germany
11,1 %10
Note: N.A. = not available
Source: Expert estimate.
Note that in several countries, statistical information regarding the percentage of assistants is not
available; this conforms to our claim that that assistants are often in the sense that they do not
appear in official documents.
2.2. Qualification
A good initial qualification of the workforce is one of the elements that can improve quality in ECEC,
especially when focusing on the development of complex competences needed to work with children and
families (European Commission, 2013b; Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016).
To get information about the initial qualification required for assistants, we referred to the ISCED
classification (International Standard Classification of Education, 2011)11.
Table 2 compares the qualification required for assistants with the ones required for core practitioners. As
we can see in the table, assistants often require no qualification, or require a lower qualification
compared to the one required by core practitioners. More specifically, Belgium (for 2.56-year-olds),
Greece, Spain, France, the Netherlands (but just for 412-year-olds), Slovenia, Sweden, Serbia and the UK
have specific qualification requirements for assistants. Slovenia and Sweden are the only countries that
require from three to four years of upper secondary vocational qualification. In Slovenia this is the case
for assistants, but not for Roma assistants (see Chapter 3).
In Sweden, the barnskötare complete a three-year upper secondary vocational training in childcare and
leisure-time studies (ISCED 3A), enabling them to work as support staff in early childhood centres
(förskolan) for 1-5-year-olds and in school-age childcare facilities. In Slovenia, the pedagogical assistants
complete a four-year upper secondary qualification (ISCED 3) with a pedagogical focus on work in early
childhood centres for 1-6-year-olds (Urban et al., 2011; Van Laere et al., 2012).
10 The case of Germany is particularly complex because of differences between the federal states. Additionally, the percentage
r
ich also includes people in vocational training who are permitted to work as an assistant
under supervision, and staff without qualification. All together, auxiliary and complementary staff make up 38,5 % of the entire
ECEC workforce.
11 The ISCED scale is structured as follows: ISCED level 1 primary education; ISCED level 2 lower secondary education; ISCED
level 3 upper secondary education; ISCED level 4 post-secondary non tertiary education; ISCED level 5 short-cycle tertiary
education; ISCED level 6   Doctoral or
equivalent level.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
32
It should be noted that in Ireland there are significant changes emerging throughout the ECEC system,
including the qualification required for assistants.
Table 2. Qualifications required for core practitioners and assistants
COUNTRY
ASSISTANTS
CORE PRACTITIONERS
Age
group
Qualification
Age
group
Qualification
1. Belgium
Flemish speaking
2,5-6
ISCED 3B
2,5-6
ISCED 5B
0-3
ISCED 3B
French speaking
2,5-6
no qualification
2,5-6
ISCED 5B
2,5-6
ISCED 3B
0-3
ISCED 3B
2. Denmark
0-6
no qualification
0-6
ISCED 5A/B
3. France
0-3
+
2,5-6
ISCED 3B
2,5-6
ISCED 5A
0-6
ISCED 5B
4. Greece
0-6
ISCED 3A
4-6
ISCED 5A
0-6
ISCED 5A/B
5. Ireland
0-5
no qualification
0-3
n.q. (about to change)
3-5
ISCED 4-5
4-6
ISCED 6
6. Lithuania
1-6
no qualification
1-6
ISCED 5A/B
7. The Netherlands
4-12
ISCED 4A
4-12
ISCED 5A/B
4-12 special
education
no qualification
0-4
ISCED ¾
0-4
no qualification
8. Poland
3-6
no qualification
3-6
ISCED 5A/B
0-3
ISCED 4A/C and 5B
9. Romania
0-7
no qualification
3-7
ISCED 5A/B
0-3
ISCED 3A
10. Slovenia
0-7
ISCED 3
0-7
ISCED 6
11. Spain
0-6
ISCED 3A
0-6
ISCED 5A
0-3
ISCED 4A
12. Sweden
1-7
ISCED 3A
1-7
ISCED 5A
13. UK (England and Wales)
0-5
ISCED 2
3-5
ISCED 5A
0-5
ISCED 3 / ISCED 5
14. Serbia
0-3
+
3-6
ISCED 2
0-3
ISCED 4
3-6
ISCED 6
15. Germany
0-6
ISCED 3B
0-6
ISCED 5A/5B
Note: where ‘no qualification’ is required it means that no specific qualification is needed to start the job as assistant.
Source: Expert Estimate.
The issue is that very often assistants stay in the same professional position during their whole career,
also because of the few adapted pathways towards qualification that are offered to them (see Chapter 3).
Our study suggests 
as assistant, but once they are hired, there needs to be an investment in attracting them towards a
qualification. In Chapter 3 some concrete examples are given on how to make this possible through
adapted pathways.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
33
2.3. Professional and training competence profiles
Whether or not a country has specific professional and training competence profiles12 can be categorized
into four possibilities: 1) a competence profile exists both for the profession and for the training; 2) a
competence profile exists for the profession but not for the training; 3) a competence profile exists for the
training but not for the profession; 4) there is no competence profile for the training nor for the
profession.
A competence profile exists for the profession and for the training
COUNTRIES:
1. France: the CAP petite enfance (0-3) and the ATSEM Agent territorial specialisé des écoles maternelles
(2,5-6)
2. The Netherlands: the Onderwijsondersteuner (4-12)
3. Slovenia: the Pomočnik vzgojitelja
4. Germany: the staatlich geprüfte KinderpflegerInnen, the staatlich geprüfte oderanerkannte
AssistentInnen im Sozialwesen, the gesundheitspflegerInnen
France, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovenia are the only European countries from the 15 of this study
that have both professional and training profiles for assistants. In Slovenia, professional standards and
competences are defined only for professions with vocational training, not for professions whose training
is provided by universities. Consequently, core practitioners have no professional competence profile,
whereas assistants do. France is the only European country that has professional and training profiles for
both core practitioners and assistants.
A competence profile exists for the profession but not for training
COUNTRIES:
1. Belgium, FR: the Assistant aux instituteurs préscolaires (2,5-6)
A competence profile exists for the training but not for the profession
COUNTRIES:
1. Belgium: the begeleider kinderopvang and the puéricultrice
2. The Netherlands: groepshulp (0-4)
In 2001 the Flemish Ministry of Education in Belgium moved to make  transition between
childcare/home and pre-school institutions smoother. For the youngest children in pre-school (2.5-3 year-
olds), and only for limited hours per week, early childhood teachers (kleuterleider) receive support from a
qualified childcare worker (begeleider kinderopvang) trained to ISCED level 3B. Whereas these childcare
workers have a professional profile related to the services they provide children from birth until three,
they do not have a professional profile describing the specific responsibilities and required competences
for their work in pre-schools. Accordingly, their tasks and positions vary, largely dependent on the school
that they happen to work in. The same happens with the puéricultrice in francophone Belgium.
12 tence

Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
34
No competence profile for the profession and for the training
COUNTRIES:
1. Belgium, FL: the doelgroepwerknemer
2. Denmark: the Pædagogmedhjælper
3. Greece: the Voithos nipiovrefokomou / voithos pedagogou
4. Ireland: the Community Worker Community Employment Scheme
5. Lithuania: the Auklėtojos padėjėja
6. Poland: the Pomoc nauczyciela
7. Romania: the Ingrijitoare
8. Spain: the Técnico/técnica Educador o Asistente en educación infantil
9. Sweden: the Barnskötare
10. United Kingdom (England and Wales): the Nursery assistants/teaching assistants
11. Serbia: the Asistenti
As we can see, the majority of the countries involved in this study do not have a competence profile for
either the profession or for the training for assistants13. Table 3 is a summary of the situation for
assistants, compared with that for core practitioners. Clearly, core practitioners are much more likely to
have a competence profile for their training and profession than will assistants.
Table 3. Competence and training profiles of assistants and core practitioners
COUNTRY
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Profession
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Training
Assistants
COUNTRY
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Profession
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Training Core
Practitioners
1. Belgium
FL
Begeleider kinderopvang
(2,5-6)
Doelgroepdeelnemer (0-3)
FR
Puéricultrice (2,5-6)
Assistant aux instituteurs
préscolaire (2,5-6)
/
/
X
X
X
X
X
/
1. Belgium
FL
FR
X
X
X
X
2. Denmark
Pædagogmedhjœlper (0-
6)
/
/
2. Denmark
/
X
3. France
Aide-auxiliaire (CAP petite
enfance)
ATSEM (agent territorial
X
X
X
X
3. France
X
X
13 It needs to be noted that in countries such as Ireland and the UK, there are significant changes occurring throughout the ECEC
system that will, to some extent, impact assistants.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
35
COUNTRY
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Profession
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Training
Assistants
COUNTRY
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Profession
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Training Core
Practitioners
spécialisé des
écoles maternelles (2,5-6)
4. Greece
Voithos nipiovrefokomou/
voithos pedagogou
/
/
4. Greece
/
X
5. Ireland
Community Worker
Community Employment
Scheme (0-5)
/
/
5. Ireland
/
X
6. Lithuania
Auklėtojos padėjėja (1-6)
/
/
6. Lithuania
X
X
7. The Netherlands
Onderwijsondersteuner
(4-12) /
Klassenassistent (4-12,
special education)
Groepshulp (0-4)
X
X
/
X
/
/
7. The
Netherlands
X
X
8. Poland
Pomoc nauczyciela (3-6)
/
/
8. Poland
Nauczyciel
wychowania
przedszkolnego
opiekunka
dziecięca
/
/
X
/
9. Romania
Ingrijitoare (0-7)
/
/
9. Romania
profesori
pentru
învăţământul
preşcolar şi
primar,
institutori
învăţământ
preşcolar,
educatoare
asistente de
pediatrie
X
/
/
/
10. Slovenia
Pomočnik vzgojitelja (0-7)
X
X
10. Slovenia
X
/
11. Spain
Técnico/técnica Educador
o Asistente en educación
/
/
11. Spain
X
X
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
36
COUNTRY
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Profession
Assistants
Competence
Profile
Training
Assistants
COUNTRY
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Profession
Core
Practitioners
Competence
Profile
Training Core
Practitioners
infantil (0-6)
12. Sweden
Barnskötare (1-7)
/
/
12. Sweden
/
X
13. UK
Nursery
assistants/teaching
assistants (0-5)
/
/
13. UK
X
X
14. Serbia
Asistenti
/
/
14. Serbia
X
X
15. Germany
Staatlich geprüfte
KinderpflegerInnen/
Staatlich geprüfte oder
anerkannte AssistentInnen
im Sozialwesen/
GesundheitspflegerInnen
X
X
15. Germany
X
X
Note: X = presence (of competence profiles)
/ = absence (of competence profiles)
Source: Expert Estimate
2.3.1. What kinds of ‘tasks’?
In the analysed countries where official descriptions of competences are available, the competences are
often framed as technical or caring tasks.
As stated in the last Eurydice report (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014, p. 96):
assistants usually implement activity programmes designed for children, prepare craft materials and
assist children to use them. They may also arrange daily routines such as preparing and serving meals,
organising changeovers such as lunch breaks and rest periods, and guide children in their activities.
In Lithuania, for instance, teacher assistants (Auklėtojos padėjėja) are described as technical workers, who
are in charge of cleaning facilities, feeding children and other routines. In Romanian childcare centres and
pre-schools, caregivers (Ingrijitoare) work as assistants alongside specialised medical nurses or pre-
primary professionals. The caring staff is responsible for cleaning, supervising children, napping, snacking,
and taking children to the toilet. In Spain the assistants (Técnico/técnica o Asistente en educación infantil)
help the other staff give personal attention to pre-primary education pupils, especially in relation to their
hygiene, diet and general well-being. In Poland the teacher assistants (Pomoc nauczyciela) support pre-
primary professionals (Nauczyciel przedszkolny) in providing hygienic routine, dressing children for the
outdoors, etc. In England, a nursery assistant will usually work alongside and under the supervision of a
core practitioner. One local authority website states that nursery assistants would be responsible for
pla for
example, meal times and rests (Wigan Borough Council, 2010). However, an occupational summary
sheet ent Council, which claimed to describe all early
years workers in day nurseries, only mentions assistants in passing, and describes the extent of their role
as working on teams with nursery staff (CWDC, 2008). An educational assistant's job is to assist the
teacher in terms of organising materials, delivering parts of the lesson to children with special educational
needs, helping individual children, and helping with discipline. In some local governments in Greece,
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
37
assistants (Voithos nipiovrefokomou / voithos vrefonipiokomou / voithos pedagogou) have a clear
professional competence profile, yet their role remains less specified at a national level because the
assistants are not yet established.
In Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, both core practitioners and assistants have a social pedagogical role
which includes caring and teaching. The fact that these countries have a unitary system can partly explain
why staff share roles.
In some countries, like the Netherlands and France, assistants, besides taking a supportive role in
technical and caring tasks, are also responsible for pedagogical-didactical tasks. With the presence of an
assistant, more individual learning processes can be initiated in a class.
When we consider the three possible teaching, bridging and caring roles of assistants that we identified
and distinguished between in the introduction (Van Laere et al., 2012), it becomes apparent that:
1) Within the countries analysed in this study, the caring role is always present (Urban et al., 2011).
Under this role, assistants support pre-school teachers by assuming caring duties, freeing up the core
professional to focus on what is perceived to be 
could be divided following a non-holistic approach.
2) In some countries, such as Denmark, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, the
teaching role is also present. In some cases, assistants have a supporting role in the learning process
of individual children (including those with special learning needs), whereas core practitioners have a
teaching responsibility for the whole group. In Scandinavian countries, core practitioners have a social
pedagogical role which encompasses learning and caring dimensions. Danish and Swedish assistants
have a social-pedagogical role under the supervision of core practitioners.
3) Some countries, such as Belgium (Fl), Serbia and Slovenia also have a bridging role. These assistants
are largely from poor local communities or ethnic minority communities. They are tasked with
introducing their institution to families and local communities, and with enhancing the accessibility of
services for vulnerable families. In Slovenia, Roma teaching assistants are also employed to raise the
educational attainment of Roma children; in such cases, the bridging role is closely linked to the
teaching role.
Compared to the learning and bridging roles, the caring role is usually addressed less in policy documents,
a consequence of the concept of schoolification of ECEC and the accompanying division between care and
education.
In sum, developing a professional identity can be difficult for assistants. They see themselves as having a
   
and families, the competences and experiences used for this work are rarely valued or articulated as part
               
  ion, in order to allow to core practitioners to focus on
   It should be noted that even in cases where regulations or
workplace conditions give recognition to the position and competences of assistants, the risk remains that
they may continue to be perceived as being simply technical workers.
This current framework would clearly benefit from a reorientation to the holistic view of education. That
said, having a clear competence profile for assistants does seem to contribute to continuity of
professional development and professional identity. On the other hand, the downside of continuity may
be lack of innovation. Clarity may result in overly technical specifications, leaving little room for reflexivity.
A clearly defined professional identity may lead to a closing off of the profession to outside influences.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
38
Developing broad competence profiles, which leave enough room for local interpretations and
adaptations, appears to be a valuable option for dealing with these dilemmas (Urban et al., 2011).
2.4. Continuous professional development
Although the initial education of the ECEC workforce is crucial, competent systems also give a high priority
to continuous professional development. The competences of ECEC staff can be improved, not only by
increasing the official entry level requirements of the job position, but by also providing existing staff with
CPD opportunities (Urban et al., 2011; Vandenbroeck et al., 2016; Peeters et al., 2015b). Better yet, if
these CPD opportunities expose staff to critical co-reflection, staff will develop new learning practices that
meet the needs of each of their specific social contexts. To achieve this, investment must be placed in
non-contact paid hours, to be used by staff for team meetings and co-reflection.
Many EU countries still do not fund non-contact time for staff, and when this time is scheduled, it usually
involves just core practitioners, rarely assistants. In general, assistants have far fewer opportunities to
engage in professional development activities, and they miss time (in terms of non-contact hours) to meet
and plan together with core practitioners (Barkham, 2008). In fact, those with the lowest levels of initial
qualification are likely to have the least chance of participating in professional development activities on a
regular basis (Oberhuemer et al., 2010, p. 497).
For example, in Denmark, there are no national regulations that cover the professional development of all
staff. When some local municipalities do have official regulations, the latter refer solely to core
practitioners (Pædagog). Non-contact time for planning and pedagogical documentation is included in the
agendas of core practitioners, who can count on a couple of hours each week to attend meetings and
analyse documentation. However, non-contact time is not included in the agendas of assistants
(Pædagogmedhjælper). In the same way, whereas most Spanish early childhood centres (Escuela de
educación infantil) provide teachers (Maestro/maestra especialista en educación infantil) with non-
contact time for planning and documentation, it is less usual for assistants (Técnico/técnica o Asistente en
educación infantil), despite having the same working schedule. In Lithuania, teachers
(Auklėtojas/auklėtoja) are alloted five days per year for professional development, whereas their
assistants (Auklėtojos padėjėjas/padėjėja) are alloted none since they are not considered to be

This is the general picture, yet there are notable exceptions. In the Netherlands and in France, all ECEC
practitioners, irrespective of their profile, have the same opportunities and obligations regarding
professional development, at least in theory. For instance, in the Netherlands, assistants
(Onderwijsondersteuner) are offered the same training opportunities as teachers (Leraar basisonderwijs).
However, it has been pointed out by some experts (e.g. Slovenia) that more effort needs to be made to
ensure assistants take advantage of these opportunities: when practical problems or limited budgets
force choices, priority tends to be given to the professional development of core practitioners.
The growing number of low qualified and low paid assistants may also jeopardise the professionalisation
of the workforce in general, especially in times of budgetary restraints. In response to this challenge,
some countries have emphasised the importance of systemic team aspects: such as collaboration
between teachers and assistants, and shared training initiatives. Such a focus on teamwork exists, for
example, in the profile for Slovenian early childhood assistants (Pomočnik vzgojitelja) and for Dutch
assistants of the pre-primary professional (Onderwijsondersteuner). In Slovenia, teacher assistants
participate in five mandatory days of training per year. Moreover, both teachers and assistants are
entitled to extra time to jointly prepare, plan and evaluate activities. The effect of this kind of investment
is underlined by a Canadian study (Gibson et al., 2012) that investigates the teaching structure of early
    -day early learning-  The
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
39
authors found that classrooms with equally shared responsibilities, compared with classrooms with a
hierarchical relationship (in which one teacher acts as the lead teacher and the other takes on an assistant
role), are of higher quality.
For some countries it is difficult to get a clear answer about the presence of CPD activities for assistants.
In our sample, this is primarily due to several countries for which are no relevant official national
regulations, and in which local authorities autonomously decide whether to permit and require assistants
to participate in CPD activities.
2.5. Diversity within the workforce
As stated in a recent report about diversity in the teaching profession (European Commission, 2015b,
p. 1), schools and teachers are increasingly struggling to cope with the diverse needs of their
multicultural learning populat
response to the evolving needs of learners.
One of the questions of our study referred to the origins of assistants. More specifically, we asked the
percentage of assistants with an ethnic-minority background, and if no statistics were available, we asked
to the experts involved if we could assume that many assistants have indeed this background or a low
socio-economic position in society. The presence within the assistants of a high percentage of people with
these kinds of background could have two interesting consequences:
1) Assistant is a profession that may socio-economic status.
This can represent a challenge in the European context, meaning that investing in assista
professionalisation could mean investing in policy employment related to migrant population or to
people with a low socio-economic status;
2) The mere presence of assistants on teams can increase their diversity. Such diversity should be
encouraged, since it can allow ECEC teams to more successfully engage with diverse groups of
children and parents. Working in a diverse team that is capable of celebrating the differences
amongst themselves (in terms of qualifications, socio-cultural background, gender etc.) gives each
team member the opportunity to experiment with negotiation and democracy. As mentioned earlier,
pedagogical support/coaching, and in-service training of a sufficient intensity and length that involves
the whole staff, can have big effects on this aspect, and thus on the quality of ECEC services (Lazzari et
al., 2013; Peeters et al., 2015b).
Workers with a particular ethnic-cultural background can more effectively communicate with parents and
children from the same background as their own (European Commission, 2015b). It is important,
however, to avoid problems such as the ones noted by two small-scale studies on assistants with a
bridging role (see 2.6.). Depoorter (2006) and Mihajlovi and Triki (2010). Both studies found that
Doelgroepwerknemers (employees from a socio-) in Belgium (FL) and Roma teaching
assistants in Slovenia were largely hired because of the problems that core practitioners encountered in
communicating with families with an ethnic-minority background and with families living in poverty. But,
their employment tended to reinforce the perceived obstacles to communication because to some extent
the presence of assistants hardened  between these families and core practitioners,
and between these families and the other families (Van Laere et al., 2012). This is a compelling reason for
investing in CPD for the whole staff. It is important to include all staff in continuous professional
development, during which all participants are given opportunities to co-reflect on their roles.
Practitioners and assistants need to follow their professional path together, in order to develop a
coherent vision and coherent actions to meet the growing diversity of children and families.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
40
None of the countries of our study collect data about the presence of assistants with an ethnic minority
background in the ECEC sector. Some of the experts involved say that we could assume that the majority
of assistants have an ethnic minority background. This trend seems to be particularly true in Greece,
France, Slovenia, and Sweden, according to our experts. In France, this is true especially in big cities like
Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Lille. In Serbia, nearly all  are Roma. In Sweden, the trend is
mainly attributable to their need for multilingual staff, and to the shortage of qualified ECEC core
practitioners.
Other experts assert that in cases where many children and families have an ethnic-minority background,
both teachers and assistants are representative of that background: this happens for example in
Lithuania, when the languages of the ECEC services are Russian and Polish.
In Poland, experts told us that people with ethnic-   usually work in the
education system, neither as practitioners nor as assistants.
For the other countries, experts were not confident enough to assume that assistants often have an
ethnic-minority background or a lower socio-economic position in society.
The issue is complex. More research is certainly warranted, since experts claim that the presence of
assistants support the diversity within teams and facilitate engagement with children and families. In
some cases it also seems that families with a low socio-economic     
talking to assistants (rather than to core practitioners); this is likely because    to them.
This sentiment was recorded by a Belgian study commissioned by the King Boudouin Foundation,
conducted in francophone Belgium (Crépin, Neuberg, 2013). The study explored the relationship between
ECEC services and families from a vulnerable background, and discovered that some mothers write the
researchers say that they prefer to have contacts with other people rather than with the core
 being closer makes the contact easier
(Crépin, Neuberg, 2013, p. 11).
As stated in the European Quality Framework (ECEC Thematic Group on ECEC, 2014, p. 33): increasing the
recruitment of staff from diverse backgrounds and, when required, helping them to progressively upgrade
their qualifications (to secondary and tertiary levels) significantly benefits children, and particularly those
from poor and migrant families.
This theme needs to be better explored in European countries, beginning with gathering data about the
socio-cultural background of assistants and about the type of interactions they have with families and
children.
If diversity amongst staff is a key commitment for the ECEC system, gender diversity should also be taken
into account. As stated in the last Eurydice report (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014,
p. 98): the ECEC profession is still predominantly female according to national statistics. Many countries
have estimated that nearly all ECEC staff working in direct contact with children are women. Denmark
is unique in having men in 23 % of assistant positions, and 15 % in teaching roles (Mehr Männer in Kitas).
Denmark14 gives notable examples in this direction; the training for core practitioners is based on a
generalist approach that gives pedagogues the possibility of moving between different fields during their
careers, which seems to better attract men compared with a profession specifically addressed to one
14 Although we do not analyze Norway, there is a similar trend there. Like in Denmark, in Norway the bachelor degree for
pedagogues has a generalist approach. From Scotland, we know that it is important for male assistants to have contact with other
male core practitioners during their pathway towards qualification. Therefore it is important to link them to networks of male
educators or teachers (Spence, 2012; Peeters, 2013; Peeters et al., 2015a; 2015b).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
41
sector. This training is also open to assistants through a particular bridge building course, and through a
specific quota system for experienced but untrained workers (see 3.2.1.).
2.6. Discussion
Our study confirms the results of the CoRe study (2011; 2016), pointing out that assistants in the ECEC
sector (0-6) generally have low or no qualification, no competence profile for the profession and for the
training, less opportunities for continuous professional development than core practitioners, and
insufficient time to plan and co-reflect in teams.
Our research into the socio-cultural background of assistants exposed the need for countries to start
collecting relevant data. The views of our experts revealed an urgent need for a deeper understanding of
the issue due to its impact on 1) employment policy for migrant populations and people with a low socio-
economic status; and 2) the quality of the ECEC system in an increasingly diverse society. Taking into
account gender diversity is also fundamentally important; men are underrepresented in the ECEC sector,
and the assistant roles may present an opportunity to involve them. Studies also indicate that the
diversity assistants bring to teams can support vulnerable families (Crépin and Neuberg, 2013). To
promote and advance our knowledge of these issues, data on the background of assistants needs to be
collected, especially related to their gender, their socio-economic background and their ethnic-cultural
background.
We also confirmed that the role of assistant is primarily perceived of as concerning  physical and
emotional needs, as addressing the i.e. children
with special needs or children with an ethnic minority background), and as connecting with parents. Each
is a fundamental element of education/care, and they are at risk of becoming undervalued tasks when
divided into a hierarchy between care and education (Catarsi and Freschi, 2013).
One could hypothesise that core practitioners do not feel competent to deal with these elements, and
claim that assistants are therefore required to fill in the gaps. If this is the case, including relevant training
for core practitioners during their initial qualification would help remedy this. Even more effectively,
building strong paths of continuous professional development would enable whole teams to grow in their
competences through co-refection (Peeters et al., 2015b) (see recommendations n. 3 and 6).
The fact that assistants are predominantly viewed as technical workers with caring duties has two major
and interconnected consequences. First, it means that caring tasks are considered to be of lower value
than education (Ortlipp et al., 2011), and the educational value of these caring activities may even be
denied. Second, it also implies that a narrow view of education (as formalised learning) prevails. This
results in a separation of care and education (even in some integrated or unitary systems), and
therefore undermines            
countries, assistants take care of the physical needs of children who are thought to distract other students
from what is considered real learning, and interfering with  task of the teacher or educator. This
decontextualized approach to learning may result in situations when during crucial momentscontact
with parents, meal time, and free playtime among peerslow or unqualified assistants are solely
responsible, thereby effectively downgrading the educational value of these moments. In other words,
has come to be seen as a simple matter , and which does not require any
specific training or professional development. Important interactions such as feeding, putting children to
bed, and accompanying them to the toilet, are stripped of their educational value. These perceptions
reduce education to cognitive development, leading to a        
education (Van Laere et al., 2012).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
42
An investment in good initial education and a strong path of continuous professional development,
accompanied by pedagogical guidance, could greatly advance the holistic approach of education and care
that recognises the educative role of caring and the caring role of education (Hayes, 2007, 2008).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
43
Chapter 3: Good practices: examples of successful pathways
towards qualification and CPD for assistants
3.1. Opportunities for assistants in some European Countries
Despite the general picture, some countries have invested in: 1) specific pathways to give to assistants the
possibility of raising their qualification; and 2) opportunities of continuous professional development for
assistants.
In the following sections we will give a detailed overview of the measures taken in some EU countries
concerning qualification and CPD for assistants. We will focus on three countries that showed particularly
interesting practices in the cases they submitted for the CoRe study, which have been updated and
recently republished in the book Pathways to professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care
(2016). The information obtained through the case studies has been further integrated with the help of
the key contact people in each country.
The chosen countries are Denmark, Slovenia and France:
Denmark gives an interesting example concerning the initial qualification;
Slovenia, besides having quite a high initial qualification for assistants, is investing in CPD for all staff;
France has built up an innovative path towards qualification for low qualified professionals who wish
to connect work and study.
3.2. Examples of pathways towards qualification and continuous professional
development
3.2.1. Denmark: measures for the initial qualification15
3.2.1.1. ECEC in Denmark: the context
As stated by Jensen (2016), Denmark has a unitary system of ministerial responsibility from birth to five
years old under the auspices of the Ministry for Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs
(returned to Social Affairs in 2013, following two years under Education). Early childhood services are
provided for all children and now offer nearly universal coverage. Each child has the right to a place from
the age of six months, if their parents wish it.
The staff of early childhood services consists of two occupational groups working in centre-based
    - pædagogmedhjælpere). There is no clear
distinction between the tasks and functions of the two groups. Pedagogues, broadly speaking, have
overall responsibility, including the right to delegate pedagogical learning processes to the co-helpers.
Almost all heads/leaders of the centres are qualified pedagogues. It is considered a benefit that those
leading the work are qualified in the profession.
15 This section is mainly based on the case study on Denmark reported by Jutte Juul Jensen in the book Pathways to
professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care, edited by Michel Vandenbroeck, Mathias Urban and Jan Peeters (2016).
The section has been supervised by Stig Lund (BUPL Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
44
Since the 1970s, the decision-making structure in Danish early childhood centres has been flat and non-
hierarchal. Recently, there has been some reversal in this characteristic of Danish centres as heads have
been upgraded, partly because they are the group of pedagogues that have held the most master
qualifications. The heads/leaders have also become more and more conscious of the difference between
pedagogues and pedagogical co-helpers.
3.2.1.2. The qualification of ECEC staff
Denmark has provided a specific education for the profession of pedagogue (pædagog) since 1992. In
2001 it became a professional bachelor degree, and was last reformed in 2014. It is a three and a half year
programme at higher education level (Jensen, 2016). In 1997 Denmark introduced an initial (optional)
training for pedagogical assistants. From 2009 it was called the Pedagogical Assistant Training
(Pædagogisk Assistent Uddannelse, PAU); it is a post-16 upper secondary vocational course.
There has been a continuous effort to raise the competence level of staff in early childhood centres and
today 60 % of the staff are pedagogues with a bachelor degree a high level compared to many countries
in Europe (Oberhuemer et al., 2010). Furthermore, there has been a tradition of having a specific
education separate from school teachers, with a generic pedagogue professional core that is applicable
not only for working in early childhood centres and out of school care, but in many other welfare
institutions.
The current Danish education of pedagogues is a mixture of generalist and specialist areas, and has its
historical roots in three separate, specialized pedagogue educations: kindergarten pedagogue, leisure-
time pedagogue and social pedagogue. In 1992 the three pedagogue educations merged into a single
education. The generalist education gave pedagogues the possibility of moving between different
pedagogical work fields during their careers. In addition, this generalist approach is one of the reasons
why the pedagogue profession has attracted a relatively high number of men.
In 2001 the education of pedagogues was upgraded to bachelor level. A reform was made in 2007 re-
introducing a mild degree of specialization. A reform in 2014 has taken this process further, turning
towards a more specialized pedagogue education. The education today consists of two parts: a common
part on basic professional competences (70 ECTS) and a specialization part (140 ECTS), so it combines a
generalist first year with subsequent specialization into:
1) Early childhood pedagogy, aimed at pedagogical work with children aged from birth to five years;
2) School and leisure pedagogy, aimed at pedagogical work with school children and young people aged
between six and 18 years;
3) Social and special pedagogy, aimed at pedagogical work with children and young people with special
needs and people with physical or mental disabilities or social problems.
In the common part there is a placement period of 10 ECTS points. The specialization course also consists
of an inter-professional course, a bachelor project and three placement periods.
The education takes place in University Colleges (professionshøjskoler) and the programmes are
recognized and financed by the Ministry of Education and Research. The Ministry provides a subsidy to
cover direct teaching costs, a so-
The 2014 ministerial decree (Bekendtgørelse, 2014) on the study programme for the award of Bachelor in
Social Education regulates the pedagogue education in Denmark and is supplemented by each University
         significant freedom to
develop local variations in their study programmes.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
45
The pedagogue education is a popular choice and an attractive profession among young people in
Denmark. Each year around 5,000 students are enrolled and many are rejected. In terms of numbers, it is
the largest higher education sector in the country. There are no tuition fees for the course as is the case
for most higher education in Denmark. During their studies the students receive from the central
government a student grant of 791 EUR a month, which may be supplemented by a loan of 409 EUR a
month (2015 sources).
Some University Colleges have a building-bridge course, which is an access or pre-course for people with
ethnic minority backgrounds. Most of the students on these courses continue on to enter pedagogue
education, which counts today 5 % of students with an ethnic minority background.
3.2.1.3. Possibilities for assistants
The above mentioned building-bridge course represents an interesting pathway towards qualification for
assistants as well, especially when considering that they often have an ethnic minority background.
In Denmark, working as an assistant can also be seen as an important recruitment base for future
pedagogue students. No formal professional education is required for assistants. Most of them are young
people between 19 and 25 years old who want to spend a year or two working before beginning their
studies. The job is quite popular with young people because it is quite well paid and is a responsible job
with children (Jensen, 2016).
Some of the assistants begin pedagogue education afterwards. In fact, most pedagogue students have
been pedagogue co-helpers before taking up their studies. In 2009 a survey concluded that work
experience motivates people for education: a pedagogue co-helper is five times more likely to start
pedagogue education than a person without work experience in an ECEC institution (Urban et al., 2011).
More specifically, in Denmark each year the Ministry of Education decides the number of pedagogue
students to be recruited. The entry requirements are based on a quota system. The first quota takes in
students with the highest grade in upper secondary examination. The second quota makes possible a
variety of entry routes based on assessment of competences and qualifications. The third quota refers to
the merit-based bachelor programme aimed at experienced but untrained workers. This offers to
assistants (pedagogical co-helpers) a chance to become qualified pedagogues. It is equivalent to 150 ECTS
credits, after achieving which students are awarded the title of pedagogue, having been credited for their
previous practical experience with pedagogical work. Oberhuemer, Schreyer and Neuman (2010, p. 108)
characterize this entry route as an inclusive approach, with flexible entry routes for mature students with
prior learning and employment experience.
Pedagogue students in Denmark differ widely in terms of age, sex and ethnicity. The education of
pedagogues has been able to attract a relatively large number of male students, 25 % of the current total,
the highest ever percentage. Male pedagogues do not work in large numbers in early childhood centres,
preferring out-of-school facilities, clubs, residential care and services for adults with disabilities. The
percentage of male workers in centres for children under three years is 7 %. In centres for three to six
year old children and in age-integrated institutions for children from birth to six years old, it is a bit higher,
at 11 % and 13 % respectively (Danmarks Statistik, 2010). Those percentages, however, also include
pedagogue co-helpers, and many institutions prefer to employ young male workers in this role.
3.2.1.4. Risk of deprofessionalisation of the ECEC workforce
In Denmark a discussion goes on about the fact that the professionalisation of low- or non-qualified
assistants may threaten the professionalisation of their more qualified colleagues. In 1997 Denmark
introduced the previously mentioned initial training for pedagogical assistants, which from 2009 was
called the Pedagogical Assistant Training (Pædagogisk Assistent Uddannelse, PAU) post-16 upper
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
46
secondary vocational course. The Danish Trade Union of Pedagogues, BUPL, for example, states that the
introduction of vocational training for pedagogue assistants is a threat because it is an inferior rival to
pedagogue education. In Denmark, but also in France, there is a fear that budgetary measures could
favour the influx of unskilled or low-skilled (and less costly) assistants, reducing the ratio of qualified
workers.
3.2.1.5. Strengths and critical points
Strengths
In sum, the interesting measures taken in Denmark concerning possibilities of qualification for assistants
are:
A specific entry point for initial qualification reserved to experienced but untrained workers;
A specific building-bridge course, which is an access or pre-course for people with ethnic minority
backgrounds;
A generalist approach, which seems to attract a good percentage of male students, which have often
been previously employed as assistants.
Besides giving opportunities for initial qualification, these measures can support building diversity in the
ECEC staff in gender, social and cultural terms.
Critical points
This potential for diversity needs to be supported by a well-designed plan of continuous professional
development that can involve the whole staff in moments of common reflection, trainings, etc. This
st yet officially in Denmark.
3.2.2. Slovenia: a growing path for the whole team through continuous professional
development16
3.2.2.1. ECEC in Slovenia: the context
As stated by Tatjana Vonta (2016), Slovenia has established an integrated system of Early Childhood
Education and Care (ECEC) for children from one to six years old, combining education, play and care in
preschool institutions. Preschools are established and financed by municipalities and parent contributions
(from 0 to 80 %, depending on their income), from the national budget (for specific purposes, like
transport of preschool children) and from donations and other sources. Preschool institutions are
organised into first (one to three years old) and second age groups (three to six years old).
               full-day
programme, they work simultaneously in the classroom for at least four to six hours, depending on the
age group. In a half-day programme, they work simultaneously in the classroom for two to three hours
depending on the age group. A preschool teacher should work directly with children for 30 hours per
d two-
year studies qualification (ISCED level 5, abolished in 1992), a higher education degree (ISCED level 6) in
preschool education (in place since 1995) or a university degree (ISCED level 7) in preschool education or
some other field (pedagogy, humanities, sociology) with a specialisation in a program for advanced
16 This section is mainly based on the case study on Slovenia reported by Tatjana Vonta in the book Pathways to professionalism
in Early Childhood Education and Care, edited by Michel Vandenbroeck, Mathias Urban and Jan Peeters (2016). The section has
been supervised by Tatjana Vonta and Jerneja Jager (Developmental Research Centre for Pedagogical Initiatives Step by Step,
Educational Research Institute, Slovenia).
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
47
training in education. Preschool teachers can also teach children in the first grade of compulsory school
together with a primary school teacher. The required qualification for a preschool tea
upper secondary vocational qualification in preschool education (ISCED 3) or general upper secondary
school and pass a vocational course on working with preschool children (, 1996). Additionally,
in environments with populations of Roma children, a Roma assistant should be involved in preschools
and primary schools (, 2004b). The Roma assistant is not required to hold an
ISCED level 3 qualification, but he/she needs to have specific qualification requirements: 1) finish at least
the 9 years of compulsory elementary school; 2) 6 months of work experience with representatives of the
Romani community; 3) oral and written knowledge of the Slovenian language; and 4) oral knowledge of
Romani language/dialect. Usually Roma assistants obtain their competences to work in ECEC services
within the framework of different projects, mostly financed by European Social Fund.
Concerning their roles, preschool teachers take on the role of having a broad awareness of what is going
on in the classroom, while assistants take on responsibilities for individual children by meeting individual
needs, encouraging and praising individual children, providing help and explanations for individual
children, etc.
3.2.2.2. CPD (continuous professional development) for the whole staff
In Slovenia, according to the Collective agreement for the Education Sector in the Republic of Slovenia
(Kolektivna pogodba, 1994), both teachers and teacher assistants are obliged to participate in five days of
training per year or 15 days every three years. Moreover, assistants and teachers are entitled to non-
contact time to enable them to prepare, plan and evaluate activities together. This measure gives a vital
opportunity to the staff to grow together, taking into account the differences that exist in the staff itself
(of qualification, of social and ethnic background, etc.). When time and support for common reflection is
planned, staff have         necessary, to improve it
through reflection. In Slovenia these opportunities are established, but the effective realization of them
depends for a big part on each specific preschool, and more specifically on each head teacher. Some
schools assign great value to this approach, and organize group-reflection meetings, observations in the
classrooms which are discussed by the team afterwards, daily one-to-one meetings between the assistant
and the teacher, etc. Sometimes the one-to-one meetings need to take place when children are resting,
otherwise it would be difficult to replace the staff.
Through further continuous professional development (CPD), staff can gain additional points (if training is
accredited), which are taken into account for advancement opportunities. Preschool teachers can be
promoted to mentor, adviser and councillor. In order to achieve those titles, they collect points defined by
the Collective agreement for the Education Sector (mostly for participation in training, projects,
professional conferences, publishing articles, organising events with children, etc.). Unfortunately, the
gained titles are permanent and to some extent influence only an increase of income but have no
influence on working obligations. The fact that professional titles are permanent and unchangeable does

assistants (, 2002), and the salary of a preschool teacher is much higher than
the sala
By law (, 1994), the head teacher is responsible for promoting the professional development
of staff, observing their practice, monitoring and consulting them, and ensuring and monitoring quality
through self-evaluation. Further education and training for staff is provided in accordance with the
national Regulation (, 2004a). The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport
financially supports various courses like further training, professional training, thematic conferences,
study groups, networks and computer literacy courses. Some of those courses are free of charge and
some have to be paid for, in most cases by preschools and seldom by participants. Course providers
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
48
include higher education institutions, the National Education Institute, the Educational Research Institute,
the School for Headmasters and non-profit and private organisations.
3.2.2.3. Roma assistants: examples from a case study
As mentioned before, in environments with Romani children, a Roma assistant should be involved in
order to support the inclusion of Romani children into the preschool and primary school, to help them to
overcome language difficulties, to facilitate the communication with the parents and to include the Roma
culture and language into the curriculum.
To better understand the possible roles of a Roma assistant, we quote here part of the case study realized
by the Slovenian colleagues for the CoRe study and recently republished. The case study has been
reported by Tatjana Vonta (2016) and it refers to observations and interviews with the staff of a preschool
in which a Roma assistant is employed: the Roma assistant was present in the classroom for four hours
two days per week; on other days she was involved in similar activities in the primary classes. At the time
when our study took place, the Slovenian Roma Association employed her at this school within the
framework of European Social Found project, in which they offered Roma assistants training in
psychology, didactics, pedagogy, standard Slovenian language, ICT, inclusion of children with special
needs, etc. in order to introduce them into the school system. The working time of the Roma assistant is
from 7 A.M. until 3 P.M. every day (Vonta, 2016, p. 80). The case study also underlined that the te
assistant expressed a strong wish to join any kind of training. The professional education of the Roma
assistant took place within the project provided by the Slovenian Roma Association. It is important to note
that in this specific case, the preschool teacher and assistant did not take part in CPD together, because it
was difficult to get a replacement for both of them at the same time. The Roma assistant took part in
team meetings for the entire preschool staff, where mostly general issues were discussed
take part in daily reflection moments (Vonta, 2016).
The concrete opportunities and roles of Roma assistants vary according to the service/school where they
work. In the above mentioned case, although the opportunities are there, s
part in daily reflection moments, there is a lack in the involvement of this specific assistant in a common
reflection path with her colleagues. In other schools, where directors invest specifically in CPD, the
situation can be very different.
3.2.2.4. Strengths and critical points
Strengths
The strengths in the Slovenian experience, concerning assistants are:
A competence profile for the profession and the training;
A promotional system for core practitioners, which needs to be adapted to assistants as well;
Possibilities of continuous professional development for the whole staff, assistants included, which give
the opportunity to reflect together and, by so doing, to valorise the diversity that exists within the
team. As Tatjana Vonta underlines (2016, p. 82), work in early childhood classrooms is an integrated
              
resting, etc. In order to implement all those activities in an integrated manner, staff have to have
opportunities for analysing, discussing, negotiating, making agreements, planning and coordinating
professional issues and the division of labour amongst themselves.
Critical points
Despite the fact that there are national regulations that promote professional development for the
whole staff, there are large differences in terms of its implementation in practice. School management
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
49
entities play an extremely important role in this process. In some cases, the director chooses to send
the teacher to seminars and not the assistant.
In practice, time for critical reflection is often reserved in a haphazard way, for example when the
children are resting, which can give the impression that this activity is not a priority. There should be
enough childfree time planned and paid both for teachers and assistants.
In many cases, Roma assistants are not sufficiently involved in CPD activities and in meetings with
teachers.
A strong system of pedagogical guidance is lacking. This system, made by pedagogical coordinators,
    
the aim of constantly connecting theory and practice.

It should also be noted that involving staff with a specific ethnic minority background is a complex
matter: on one hand it can increase the diversity of staff. On the other hand, as already mentioned in
Chapter 2, when hiring assistants from ethnic minorities and/or poor backgrounds, programmes may
reinforce the very communication gaps they were intended to eliminate (Depoorter, 2006). Also in this
case, the presence of pedagogical guidance and of a common CPD path appears as fundamental.
3.2.3. France: investing in initial qualification for low qualified professionals17
3.2.3.1. ECEC in France: the context
Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in France is organized in a split system (0 to 2,5 and 2,5 to 6).
The system is characterised by a great variety of different professionals, each with a different training
(Mony, 2002). In the last years, in childcare centres (crèches), there has been an increase in the number of
unqualified or low-qualified workers (assistants: aide auxiliaire CAP petite enfance - 0 to 3 - and ATSEM,
agent territorial specialize des écoles maternelles), expected to collaborate with qualified colleagues (core
practitioners). More specifically, in childcare centres, the law mandates that 40 % of staff must be
qualified and 60 % not. The auxiliaire CAP petite enfance belong to this last category.
Because of the increasing number of assistants, important investments are made to establish a shared
culture among qualified and low-qualified workers, including a common body of knowledge on child
development, a shared vision on parent participation and shared methods, such as observation.
3.2.3.2. Qualification roads for ECEC staff
As stated by Thollon Behar and Mony (2016), despite the heterogeneity of the workforce, and despite the
prevailing discourses on lifelong learning, there are very limited possibilities for horizontal or vertical job
mobility.
In 1988 the Association des Collectifs Enfants Parents Professionnels (ACEPP), a French national network
of about 1.000 parent-led day care centres (crèches parentales), initiated a qualification process for its
young employees without diploma: the EJE (éducateur jeunes enfants). From the start, the national
network of ACEPP negotiated with policy makers on inclusive measures to enable youngsters who had
previously dropped out to access higher education through the recognition of acquired competences. As a
result, funding was made available for training and for inter-institutional coordination between all
partners of this inclusive training project. This included eight training centres, the regional coordination
centres of ACEPP, and the Collège Cooperatif Rhône-Alpes of Lyon, a training centre specialised in
17 This section is mainly based on the case study about France reported by Marie Paule Thollon Behar and Myriam Mony in the
book Pathways to professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care, edited by Michel Vandenbroeck, Mathias Urban and Jan
Peeters (2016). The section has been supervised by Myriam Mony.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
50
including workers with limited initial education and working in close cooperation with the Ecole de Santé
Sociale du Sud-Est (ESSSE) to develop projects that alternate between work and training.
3.2.3.3. Possibilities for assistants
The Ecole de Santé Sociale du Sud-Est in Lyon (France) offers a special qualifying training, which enables
professionals with low qualifications (for example, assistants) to enter a graduate course and obtain the
diploma of éducateur jeunes enfants (EJE), a three-year long post-secondary school diploma, while
remaining in their employment during the entire training period (salaried students). The EJE have a
particular role in the childcare services. Often, they are in charge of the pedagogical dimension of the
team. They can also be the managers    é, 2000). As a
consequence, the EJE training for professionals with low qualifications enables them to access a more
prestigious profession and attain higher salaries. In this case, because students remain paid and in full-
time employment, there are particular opportunities and challenges in relating theory and practice,
especially through the method of analyse des pratiques (analyses of daily practices), which enables
students and professionals to share reflection moments on practice. ESSSE yearly serves 85 regular
ich are early years workers who alternate their work
with the qualifying EJE training.
The employer and/or the state provides the funding. Students can enter the training through a
competitive intake examination, which is the same for all future students. The salaried students stay
                 
pedagogy (Pueyo, 2004), as they alternate three weeks per month at work and one week in the training
centre. Being in a separate group enables the teachers to devise the learning experience in relation with
practice through group support, analyses de pratiques      
pedagogical practices. There are two additional groups for the salaried students: one to support writing
capacities and one on computer use. Considering that some of the salaried students left school at an early
age, these additional groups have the potential to significantly improve their academic skills.
During training, a tutor              
workplace), accompanies the student, and a reference trainer supports the student in the training
centre. At the end of the training, all students, whether regular or salaried, take the same state exam at
the same time.
From the interviews with the students made for the CoRe case study and recently updated (Thollon Behar
and Mony, 2016), the students unanimously agreed that the training makes it possible to link theory and
practice and that the knowledge process becomes easier because it is based on a strong practice. But the
process also includes a phase of destabilization, especially for salaried students. The challenge is that
students need to acquire a diploma for their job mobility, while being salaried in their initial work. This
means that their professional identity has to change over the three and half years, while in their practice,
for their team and for both the colleagues and the employer, they keep the same professional position. It
is a delicate balance for the person who undergoes these changes and it is often a source of internal, and
inter-relational conflicts. In addition, the student needs to find the right place between being employed
and being in training, since the workplace is used as a training place too (i.e. as an internship site).
As we said, analyse de pratiques can be of a great help in this, because it is based
on group reflection on practice, and the group itself can be a support. In practice, the reference groups
meet each time they are back at the training centre, sharing experiences, guided by a psychologist.
Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in ECEC
51
From the CoRe case study it emerges that the whole team benefits from the training of one of its
members, in terms of competence improvements. First, the team is involved in the questioning and
reflection that forms the basis of the training process. Moreover, the team also integrates the reflection
of the salaried student, including new ideas. The new light that the student sheds on the practices may
help the team to take a critical distance from the usual experiences.
Group reflection moments are fundamental in order to make the whole team benefit from this situation,
as well as the presence of pedagogical guidance.
3.2.3.4. Analyse de pratiques
Analyse de pratiques (analysis of practices) originated in the 1960s in France, on the initiative of Michael
Balint, a Hungarian psychoanalyst who analysed general practice together with a group of doctors. He
believed that a disease cannot always be cured by the proposed treatment, but that it rather depends on
other factors that can be identified by means of group reflection. This approach later found its way into
the broader social sector and came to be applied in a more systemic manner. In France, many
professionals groups of colleagues, student groups, etc. in childcare and other domains work with
analyse de pratiques (Fablet et al., 2004). For many, it has proven to be a tremendous asset in the
workplace: the atmosphere in the workplace improves, people feel supported and valued in their job. In
the childcare sector, analyse de pratiques is used as a method for group reflection, through which a team
or group of students or practitioners come together on a regular basis (usually every four to six weeks) to
discuss a concrete situation that occurred in their practice. In these sessions, daily practice is analysed,
deconstructed and reconstructed. This kind of reflection on daily practice, when it happens on a regular
basis and it becomes a shared path, makes change possible, which means making possible quality
improvement. Through analyse de pratiques the different professionals in ECEC centres are encouraged to
share the same professional language. The different points of view on the same situation are expressed
and the whole team is accompanied into a reflection path on their practice. The low-qualified workers,
however, experience some difficulties in fitting into this professional culture. The challenge for the years
to come will be to integrate the low-qualified workers more fully into this professional culture.
In the pre-primary school (école maternelle) another challenge is apparent. The assistants (ATSEM) and
teachers (professeurs des écoles) have different employers: teachers are employed by the education
Ministry of Education, whereas the ATSEM are employed by the Municipality. That is one of the reasons
why common training and sessions of analysis of practice are very difficult to organise between core
practitioners and assistants.
3.2.3.5. Strengths and critical points
Strengths
A competence profile exists for the profession and the training for assistants.
There is a system to enable low qualified workers to get a higher qualification while continuing working,
through the recognition of acquired competences.
There is investment in the use of group reflection moments, based on the method analyse de pratiques,
aimed at reflecting on daily practice in order to improve it.