Benefits of joined-up education and care services highlighted by European examples

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Early years education and care services should be fully integrated and co-ordinated by a single government department to promote social inclusion and help up-skill the workforce, says a new report.

The Children in Scotland study of 28 European countries found that those with integrated early years and care systems (ECEC) had a higher qualified, better paid and more sustainable workforce, which improved children's outcomes.

Countries with fully integrated systems such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland were found to be more effective in reaching families with poor educational backgrounds. These countries also have a clear connection between parental leave policies, education and care, offering parents from 12 to 25 months of well-paid leave and the right to attend early years services with a well qualified workforce.

Countries with unintegrated or partially integrated ECEC systems were found to exacerbate inequalities, with poor levels of pay and limited access to services, especially for low income families.

Working for Inclusion: an overview of European Union early years services and their workforce, was launched at a Children in Scotland conference as part of its two-year project Working for Inclusion (News, 17 September 2009).

Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said, 'There are particularly big gains for children under three, who are more likely to be attending properly regulated, well-staffed services which cost less, and where there is virtually no difference in attendance rates between children of parents with higher and lower educational qualifications.

'Our partial integration does not deliver the very real gains achieved by those countries with fully integrated systems which have a common framework for all services across access, funding, regulation and the workforce.

Further information

www.childreninscotland.org.uk

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