Transatlantic forum discusses workforce development

Published February 17, 2014 – by Jeanet van de Korput

In New York in July 2013, the second meeting of The Transatlantic Forum on Inclusive Early Years discussed workforce preparation and curriculum innovations. Through the Forum, foundations from Europe exchange ideas and best practices on investing in early childhood education and care, with the participation of scientists, business leaders and policy makers.

This meeting set out to understand which changes in instructional practice, teacher preparation and curricula have been most successful in engaging children from migrant and low-income families. The early years are critical for a child’s cognitive, emotional, linguistic and social development and later success in school, university and the workplace, as well as for physical and mental well-being.

This six-minute video sums up the key messages from the second meeting:

A full report on the meeting is available on co-organiser VBJK’s website. The final takeaways and remaining challenges are summarised as follows:

  • ECEC Curricula should serve all different categories of children. Specific curricula for children with a migrant or low-income background have not led to better outcomes. The focus needs to be on the holistic development of children, including learning and academic outcomes, but also well-being, positive identity formation, inclusion. Curricula need to be defined in dialogue with parents (what do they need, what do they think is important) in a reciprocal relationship of respect and mutual trust. And finally, they have to be implemented by committed, competent and qualified staff.

  • Investing in children means investing in the professionalization of workforce. There is a proven link between quality of the workforce and outcomes for children BUT this link is strongly influenced by the level of actual working conditions, the presence (or lack) of systemic support of all staff. Quality of ECEC staff is not only a question of qualifications and pre-service preparation but also of different types of sustained training on the job, favourable working conditions, and pedagogical mentoring and support. Transformative education and workforce preparation is needed to get the reflective practitioners that we need in a context of hyper diversity and multilinguism. ECEC practitioners are to be ‘actors of change’. Therefore investments in leadership are also crucial.

  • Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and support must be provided to all staff, with sufficient length and intensity to be effective and leading to change. Both pre-service and in-service training are necessary. For instance, a minimum of 50% of the staff should have a bachelor degree. Staff from different backgrounds can increase the awareness of stereotypes and prejudices within the team and move forward in learning to deal with these. In diversifying the workforce, ethnic matching should be avoided: all staff members should work with all children and families. Diversifying the workforce is not only an issue of ethnic background but also an issue of gender.

The third meeting, held in Lisbon last month, was on the subject of engaging parents and families. A report on this meeting will be published when available. Future meetings are planned through to 2016, covering evaluation of early childhood programs, integrated systems, multilingualism and multiple identities, and the role of national governments. The upcoming meeting will be about Research and Evaluation of programmes and practices and will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in June/July 2014. Further information can be found on the website of Forum member the King Baudouin Foundation.