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An equal start?

An equal start?: Providing quality early education and care for disadvantaged children

Ludovica Gambaro
Kitty Stewart
Jane Waldfogel
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  • Book Info
    An equal start?
    Book Description:

    Early education and care has become a central policy area in many countries. As services expand rapidly, it is crucial to examine whether children from disadvantaged backgrounds receive provision of the highest possible quality. In this original, topical book, leading experts from eight countries examine how early education and care is organised, funded and regulated in their countries. Bringing together recent statistical evidence, the book gives an up-to-date picture of access to services by different groups, providing rich insights on how policies play out in practice, and the extent to which they help or hinder disadvantaged children to receive high quality provision. An equal start? reveals the common tensions and complexities countries face in ensuring that early education and care is affordable, accessible and of high quality. Its critical examination of the potential for better policies ensures that An equal start? will be of interest to academic readers as well as policy makers and practitioners.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-1053-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures, tables and appendices
    (pp. v-viii)
  2. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)
    Ludovica Gambaro, Kitty Stewart and Jane Waldfogel

    In recent decades, the provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) has risen up the policy agenda right across the globe. One central driving force has been the increasing labour force participation of women, which has created a growing demand for childcare services for preschool age children. Governments have encouraged and subsidised these services for a number of reasons. Concerns about child poverty have figured prominently in countries such as the UK, while the need to tackle social exclusion among immigrant groups has been a factor in many continental European countries. Demographic change has also been important. Rising rates...

  3. TWO Equal access to early childhood education and care? The case of the UK
    (pp. 29-52)
    Ludovica Gambaro, Kitty Stewart and Jane Waldfogel

    Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has occupied an important place on the political agenda in the UK since the mid-1990s. Under the Labour government in office from 1997 to 2010, the expansion of childcare was seen as a crucial plank in the campaign against child poverty. At the same time, increasing evidence pointed to the importance of early education in promoting more equal life chances, suggesting the ‘double dividend’ which could be delivered by high-quality ECEC (DfES et al, 2002: 29). Spending on services for children under five increased threefold in real terms between 1997 and 2007, faster than...

  4. THREE Towards universal quality early childhood education and care: The norwegian model
    (pp. 53-76)
    Anne Lise Ellingsæter

    Historically, Norwegian early childhood education and care institutions have developed from targeted services for the needy towards a universal arrangement (Ellingsæter and Gulbrandsen, 2007). Today, universal access is reflected both in that a place is institutionalised as a social right for children aged one to five, and that the great majority of children in this age group – 90% – are enrolled in services. The present model has developed gradually in a dynamic interplay of supply and demand over the past 30 to 40 years (Ellingsæter and Gulbrandsen, 2007).

    Although sharing similarities with the other Scandinavian welfare states, the Norwegian model exhibits...

  5. FOUR Equal access to quality care: Lessons from France on providing high-quality and affordable early childhood education and care
    (pp. 77-100)
    Jeanne Fagnani

    Along with the Nordic countries, France leads the European Union (EU) in public childcare provision and benefits aimed at reducing childcare costs for families. It has also widely been recognised that the French childcare system has many strengths (OECD, 2012). In recent years, however, in the context of economic uncertainties, policy makers have been confronted with new tensions and dilemmas. While over the last decade France has continued to progressively consolidate and enhance its promotion of policies to support the work– family life balance, the introduction of new laws in the domain of early childhood education and care (ECEC) has...

  6. FIVE Equal access to high-quality childcare in the Netherlands
    (pp. 101-120)
    Yusuf Emre Akgündüz and Janneke Plantenga

    The Dutch early childhood education and care (ECEC) system is essentially a two-tiered system, consisting of private day-care centres and publicly funded playgroups. Day-care centres provide care for young children whose parents are employed. Although almost all parents make use of these facilities on a part-time basis, the services may be offered up to 11 hours a day, five days a week and 50 weeks a year. Playgroups are more child-centred, focus only on children in the age category two to four and cover about 10 hours a week and 42 weeks per year. Because of the difference in focus,...

  7. SIX Access and quality issues in early childhood education and care: The case of Germany
    (pp. 121-146)
    Pamela Oberhuemer

    The past decade in Germany has witnessed an unprecedented increase in policy initiatives and fast-paced change in the field of early childhood education and care (ECEC). This enhanced prioritisation of the years from birth to the start of compulsory schooling at age six has been stimulated by three main agendas.

    The first is a longer-term policy concern regarding the expansion of publicly subsidised early childhood services. Propelled by the issues of gender equity, women’s workforce participation and life–work balance, and accompanied by debates around other factors such as the low fertility rate in Germany, the first significant moves towards...

  8. SEVEN New Zealand: A narrative of shifting policy directions for early childhood education and care
    (pp. 147-170)
    Helen May

    Between 1999 and 2008 the centre-left Labour government in New Zealand made radical changes to the provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC). The government introduced funding to support participation in ‘high need’ centres and services, delivered on a policy of 20 hours’ free early childhood education (ECE) per week for three and four-year olds, increased universal subsidies including for children under three and was on target by 2012 to have teacherled ECEC centres staffed entirely by qualified teachers. These policies were embedded in the Labour government’s Strategic Plan,Pathways to the Future – Ngã Huarahi Arataki 2002–2012, intended...

  9. EIGHT Early education and care in Australia: Equity in a mixed market-based system?
    (pp. 171-192)
    Deborah Brennan and Marianne Fenech

    Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a high-profile political issue in Australia. In 2008, Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised ‘a world-class system of integrated early childhood learning and childcare’ designed to ‘boost national productivity, lift labour force participation, contribute to social inclusion and be the first step towards an “education revolution”’. A year later, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), representing the Commonwealth, States, Territories and local government, endorsed an early childhood development strategy encompassing children from birth to eight years.Investing in the Early Years: A National Childhood Development Strategysets out a ‘comprehensive response to evidence...

  10. NINE Delivering high-quality early childhood education and care to low-income children: How well is the US doing?
    (pp. 193-218)
    Katherine Magnuson and Jane Waldfogel

    Early childhood education and care (ECEC) researchers and policy makers have used the metaphor of the ‘childcare triangle’ – reflecting the connection, and tension, between the goals of advancing access, quality and affordability. The tension between these competing goals has never been so acute as it is today. The high share of children with working mothers makes increasing access an imperative for social policy (Fox et al, 2012). But at the same time, we know more than ever before about the crucial importance of the quality of care for child wellbeing (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000), suggesting that simply expanding access without...

  11. TEN Common challenges, lessons for policy
    (pp. 219-244)
    Kitty Stewart, Ludovica Gambaro, Jane Waldfogel and Jill Rutter

    Although national contexts are different, countries face similar challenges in attempting to ensure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) provision. There are inevitable tensions in trying to deliver on all three corners of what Katherine Magnuson and Jane Waldfogel refer to in their chapter on the US as the ‘childcare triangle’ – access, quality and affordability. In this concluding chapter we draw together the evidence from our eight country case studies to examine how different countries have best addressed these common challenges.

    We begin by asking how disadvantaged children can be encouraged and enabled...