ETUCE position on Establishing a European Child Guarantee

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On 24 March 2021, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Establishing a European Child Guarantee. This initiative is based on the results of two public consultations to which ETUCE provided its contributions (October 2020; November 2020).

The aim of the proposal, according to the European Commission is to prevent and combat social exclusion by guaranteeing access to children in need to a set of key services, fostering equal opportunities for children in need, and combating child poverty. The Proposal for a Council Recommendation is expected to be discussed by ministries of the European Union and to be adopted on 14-15 June 2021 by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.

The ETUCE Bureau adopted a position which underlines that education is a fundamental right for all children and that it must be protected. ETUCE welcomes that the European Commission calls on national governments to guarantee “free access” to early childhood education (ECE) for children in need. However, we remind that early childhood education must be a universal and free entitlement to all children in Europe, as it plays a crucial role in developing the full potential of children and countering economic and social inequalities.

In order to allow all children to practise this right, governments need to ensure appropriate infrastructure, highly qualified staff and quality provision in ECE. According to Eurostat, 23,4% of the children in the European Union - in some EU countries it is even more: 1 in every 3 children - were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2019. The European Commission should update this data as the COVID-19 crisis has had a detrimental effect on children’s life, well-being and their future learning possibilities.

ETUCE welcomes that the Proposal for a Council Recommendation focuses on the inclusion of children in need in early childhood education, giving particular attention to children in disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances. We 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. ETUCE reminds that an inclusive education also means ensuring safe physical and social learning environments free of violence, bullying and discrimination.

According to ETUCE all children should be guaranteed the right to have equal access to high-quality and inclusive ECE from birth until the start of compulsory schooling. The Child Guarantee should answer to this demand. Education trade unions request that the proposal guarantees the right to quality and inclusive education for all children with effective implementation of Principle 1 and 11 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations (UN), namely the SDG1 which aims to reduce the number of children in poverty, and SDG 4 on quality education. The initiative should take into consideration the European Commission’s Key Principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care to which ETUCE actively contributed.  

It is of utmost importance to provide ECE teachers and staff with adequate and up-to-date initial and continuous professional development to respond to the specific needs of children. This should entail training and additional support to develop pedagogical methods and tools, including through digital technologies, to address the need of multicultural learning environments as well as classes with children with special needs.

The ETUCE position on Establishing a European Child Guarantee can be found here