Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Early Childhood Education Staff: joint event of ETUCE and BUPL


On 15 November, ETUCE and the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators (BUPL) organised a joint event in Brussels for the representatives of education trade unions representing early childhood education staff. The event aimed at discussing ways of attracting and retaining staff in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector.

ETUCE member organizations underlined the importance of cooperation between the European Commission, ministries, and social partners, which resulted in important reports, for example on how to recruit, train and motivate well-qualified staff. Despite the report emphasizing that the quality of ECE increases when staff is qualified and motivated to stay in the profession, challenges persist in attracting and retaining teachers and ensuring quality teaching. Teacher shortages, insufficient qualified staff, comparatively lower salaries than of the teachers in primary and secondary teachers are common challenges faced by the majority of countries participating in the event. Moreover, while ETUCE member organizations advocate that education is a human right and public good, therefore ECE should be free for all children, privatization in the sector and lack of public investment for building and infrastructure are still challenges in many countries to implement the Child Guarantee.  

In Denmark at the moment 4000 teachers are missing from the education sector, which will increase to 8000 until 2024. The analysis of the downward trend in ECE staff recruitment in the country highlighted how the low academic status of teacher training programmes, unattractive ECE teacher salaries and the lowering of qualifications required to access the profession as a response to teacher shortage, are interconnected.  Norway faces similar issues, as the quality of ECE teacher training is being lowered to hire more staff. This creates a vicious cycle since lower qualification expectation lowers the attractiveness of the profession, and less talented and motivated young people will apply to be ECE teachers. In Latvia, the unequal remuneration of preschool teachers prompted legal scrutiny, with the Constitutional Court recognising the problem. Italian education trade unions also struggle with new recruitment practices and  lowering of teacher qualifications which put obstacles in front of improving the status of the ECE staff concerning salaries and working conditions. In Romania, despite positive developments like salary increases, over 48% of children lack access to public kindergartens, leading to overloaded classes and challenging working conditions for the teachers, while 97% of ECE educators advocate for increased intervention of the government in the sector. In France, where schooling is compulsory from age 3, limited teacher training and resources, overcrowded classrooms and a growing trend of staff resignations are pressing problems. Macedonia and Georgia share similar challenges and call for new legal frameworks to address these issues.

Despite positive practices in Ireland, where the profession is considered attractive, and Finland, where the salary gap for ECE teachers is being filled, teacher shortages persist, and the lowering of the status of the profession and educational requirements for prospective teachers remains a threat. The outcomes of this event emphasized the importance of changing the narrative around the work of the ECE staff as the public still believes that ECE teachers only deal with care work and not with education. Education trade unions will continue calling governments for effective social dialogue to improve the status of the teaching profession in the sector, and for sustainable public funding, supporting teachers’ professional development and high-quality teacher training for well-educated staff, ensuring fair salaries and good working condition and providing free access to early childhood education. The involvement of social partners in policymaking and the strengthening of social dialogue is essential to these ends. These goals fully align with ETUCE's commitment to improve the quality of early childhood education, increase the status of the profession and address teacher shortages without compromising professional standards.