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The Education and Care Divide: the role of the early childhood workforce in 15 European countries


  • Katrien Van Laere,

  • Jan Peeters,

  • Michel Vandenbroeck

Katrien Van Laere, Department of Social Welfare Studies, Ghent University, Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Gent, Belgium,,

Jan Peeters, Department of Social Welfare Studies, Ghent University, Raas Van Gaverestraat 67A, B-9000 Gen, Belgium,,

Michel Vandenbroeck, Department of Social Welfare Studies, Ghent University, Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Gent, Belgium,, /


International reports on early childhood education and care tend to attach increasing importance to workforce profiles. Yet a study of 15 European countries reveals that large numbers of (assistant) staff remain invisible in most international reports. As part of the CoRe project (Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care) we conducted a cross-national survey among experts in Belgium (Flemish- and French-speaking communities), Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK (England and Wales). The survey explored professional and training profiles not only for formal ‘teaching’ staff, but also for the entire workforce, making visible the assistants who are often omitted from international reports. The proportion of assistant staff varies from a very small percentage in some European countries to half of the entire workforce in many others. Whereas job profiles for higher qualified staff often focus on ‘education’, profiles for assistants typically focus on ‘care’. Consequently a divide between care and education can be observed, both in split systems and in integrated systems. In these cases, the concept of ‘education’ may be narrowed down to schoolified learning and ‘care’ may be regarded as subordinate to education. In several cases, assistants also have less entitlement to ongoing professionalisation than educational staff. Consequences of the findings for practice as well as policy are discussed.