The “Child Guarantee” needs to support all children to access high quality, inclusive and free early childhood education


The European Commission launched a public consultation on “Basic services for children in need  - European Child Guarantee” which is open until 07 October 2020 via this link.  Child Guarantee will focus on socio-economically disadvantaged children who face poverty, and “children with a migrant background, children in institutions and children with disabilities”. Moreover, as the European Commission announced, this initiative will be part of an upcoming comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child to be adopted during the first quarter of 2021.

Education trade unions welcome that the European Commission launched this initiative as child poverty and the consequential inequal access to early childhood education (ECE) seriously affect our society and education systems. According to Eurostat, 23,4% of the children in the European Union were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2018. ETUCE believes that this percentage has increased due to the social and economic crisis that the COVID pandemic has brought upon Europe.  We are deeply concerned that social and economic inequalities among children that lead to inequal access to quality early childhood education have a detrimental effect on children’s life and their future learning possibilities.

Our answer to the public consultation reminds the European Commission to ensure that the upcoming European Child Guarantee initiative encourages each EU country to guarantee that every child has the right to equal access to free, high-quality and inclusive early childhood education. We also underline the importance of holistic education and play-based pedagogies, and the crucial contribution that ECE makes in preparing children to fully participate in society.

Ensuring high quality and inclusive ECE for all children must begin with improving the quality of initial training for ECE teachers. However, unattractive salaries and working conditions of the ECE staff sorely undermine the possibility to attract highly skilled personnel to the ECE institutions. As shown by the latest OECD data, salary of ECE teachers in the European Union is way below the level of teachers in other education sectors with ECE teachers earning in average 10% less than primary teachers and 17% less than higher education colleagues. We believe that the Child Guarantee initiative should also respond to the demands of education trade unions to ensure decent salary and fair working conditions for ECE staff as high-quality services for children require highly qualified and well-remunerated professional staff.

The European Commission’s Roadmap to the public consultation mentions the role of private institutions to tackle the problem of child poverty. We are concerned that private institutions are not adequate to guarantee the right of children to have equal access to quality education. Access fees to ECE institutions and the increasing privatisation of early childhood education schools and systems contribute to exacerbating child poverty and increase the unequal access to ECE. We remind that Child Guarantee can be a successful initiative if it demands EU Member States to increase public investment in ECE and stop further privatisation measures to include early childhood education as part of the public education provision.

The ETUCE position paper which is our answer to the public consultation can be found here.