Effective collaborative school leadership can tackle teacher shortages in the early childhood education sector


From 12 to 16 February 2024, the Education Network Leadership Network Europe, a new consortium on school leadership with EFEE, ETUCE, EPA, OBESSU and ESHA as lead partners, hosted a webinar week on collaborative education school leadership. On 12 February, ETUCE organised a webinar where speakers representing the European Commission, the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators (BUPL), the Cypriot Confederation of Parents Association, and Catholic Education Flanders from the employers side discussed “How collaborative school leadership can help with tackling  staff shortages in the Early Childhood Education sector (ECE)”. 

Data from the Education and Training Monitor 2023 shows that access to ECE is still not equal for all children, and that the issue of teacher shortage needs urgent attention. The speaker from the European Commission highlighted that challenges also persist in EU comparative data on measuring staff shortages in the ECE sector and identifying the different types of ECE staff. ECE is a crucial foundation in children’s early learning and goes beyond mere childcare. The profession in ECE should be adequately recognised as a teaching profession, with sufficient pay, working conditions and status for ECE teachers. Consequently the working group of the European Commission produced a report on how to recruit, train and motivate well-qualified staff

The speakers concurred that the role of early childhood education teachers should be made more attractive, and that social dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders are necessary to ensure decent working conditions, fair salaries, career development opportunities, a supportive working environment, more continuous professional development, lower staff-to-class ratios, and gender equality of staff. In Denmark, where there is currently a shortage of 4000 ECE teachers (expected to grow to 8000 by  2030) and 11.000 teachers have left the profession, low pay and poor career prospects make young people opt out of initial teacher education​. Conversely, in Cyprus, the profession is highly attractive due to fair salaries, to the extent that there are less vacancies for ECE teachers than the number of qualified teachers waiting for employment in this sector. In Belgium’s Flanders region, where 6000 teaching vacancies need to be filled, the decline in the number of students in teacher education is attributed due to the low status and attractiveness of the profession. To address these shortages, some countries have adopted temporary measures that affect the quality of ECE, such as recruiting unqualified teachers or support staff.  

The speakers emphatised that better research is needed to understand ECE staff’s demographics to ensure that policymaking is evidence based and that research aligns more closely to practice. More information about the ELNE project can be found here: Events for week of 12 February 2024 – ELNE (elnenetwork.org)