The Erasmus+ report, Professionalisation of Childcare Assistants in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC): Pathways towards Qualification, focuses on reviewing profiles of ECEC assistants in 15 European countries, as well as the professionalization opportunities available to them. The report makes recommendations on how pathways for qualification and continuous professional development (CDP) can be created for assistants. Examples from Denmark, France and Slovenia show some successful pathways in these areas.
Several key findings were introduced in the report. The first is that ECEC assistants are not recognized in policy documents or research. This is unacceptable considering the high number of assistants in the ECEC workforce. Additionally, ECEC assistants have little opportunity to receive the same qualification as a core practitioner. There should be investment in systems that reward the work of all staff, and opportunities to be upwardly mobile at work. This includes increasing the number of opportunities for professional development that assistants have access to. European countries do not generally provide funding for staff’s non-contact time, causing assistants to miss out on reflection time with their teams.
The lack of competence profiles for assistants hinders the holistic approach to childhood development. When the position and competences of assistants are recognized, they are often considered simply technical workers. In fact, ECEC assistants bring diversity to the workforce and aid the ability of staff to engage with diverse children and families. National experts who acted as consultants for this study suggest that more assistants are of ethnic minority backgrounds than core practitioners.
ECEC assistants enrich the workforce, CDP and qualification opportunities should reflect the invaluable work they do.