1. Overview and policy pointers for building a high-quality early childhood education and care workforce

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals are the major driver of the quality of an ECEC system. A growing body of evidence links investments in high-quality ECEC to personal, social and economic returns, thereby providing a strong case for developing the skills of ECEC staff, improving their working conditions and well-being, and strengthening leadership and managerial practices in ECEC settings. This is why, in normal times, OECD countries seek effective policies to attract, maintain and retain a highly skilled workforce in the ECEC sector.

Investing in ECEC professionals as the quality cornerstone of a country’s ECEC system becomes even more primordial in the context of the global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption of educational and social care services. Across the world, the closure of ECEC centres during the pandemic has forced families to take difficult decisions about balancing work and stress around the pandemic with their children’s education and care. The crisis highlights the importance of ECEC as a critical sector not only to support parents’ employment and secure ongoing services for children of other essential workers, but also to provide learning and social development opportunities for young children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. While other levels of education may adopt virtual and remote solutions to offer some continuity for students’ learning, the human interactions that define process quality in ECEC cannot be replaced in the same ways. As the sector prepares to resume its activity while confronting the challenges of the pandemic, recognition of the value of the work of ECEC professionals and a political commitment to support high-quality and equitable provision become imperative.

At the same time, the reality of COVID-19 has underscored the fragilities of the ECEC sector in many countries. The pandemic has heightened the need for ECEC staff and leaders to develop strong skills and innovative strategies for supporting children and families, possibly under new circumstances when restrictions are lifted. It has also highlighted problems with staff shortages and challenging working conditions, as well as the financial precariousness of some ECEC settings. This makes policies to build and retain a highly skilled ECEC workforce more important than ever.

Across countries, ECEC centres were closed as a consequence of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020. While these closures were generally temporary measures, the risk of permanent job losses may have been greater for staff with higher levels of job insecurity and in countries with a larger prevalence of the private sector. The first volume of TALIS Starting Strong (OECD, 2019[1]) as well as the current volume (see Chapter 3) provide baseline indicators and analyses into the working conditions of the ECEC workforce based on data collected in 2018, hence prior to the pandemic. In addition, in preparation for this volume, countries participating in the survey provided information on some financial and employment effects of the COVID-19 crisis in the ECEC sector in the first half of 2020, as well as on the measures adopted to mitigate its impact. While governments have generally stepped in to avoid job and wage losses for ECEC staff (Box 1.1 and Table 1.1), the medium- and long-term effects of the crisis will require sustained and strong support to ensure access to high-quality ECEC for all children, so that ECEC provision continues to provide a stepping stone in their development and well-being.

The OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) is the first international survey focusing on staff and leaders in ECEC. Data collection took place in 2018, hence before the COVID-19 pandemic. The first volume of results from the survey focused on the quality of ECEC environments, placing children at the centre of analyses and investigating the types of interactions staff have with children and parents and the main factors related to these interactions (OECD, 2019[1]). Findings in the report highlighted the key role of staff and leaders in providing high-quality ECEC and the need for policies to better prepare and support staff in their daily activities and practices with children.

Building on the findings of the first volume, the second volume focuses on attracting, maintaining and retaining a quality workforce. It continues to address issues around the quality of ECEC, but with a novel and specific focus on the ECEC workforce. The objective of this volume is to analyse and discuss more specifically policy areas that ensure a stable quality workforce in the sector. TALIS Starting Strong offers an opportunity to learn about the strengths and challenges of the ECEC workforce, including their education and training trajectories, their sources of stress and job satisfaction, and the work organisation and leadership practices in ECEC centres. Analyses in this publication relate to the characteristics and working conditions of ECEC staff and leaders that are known through research to influence their skills, their sense of self-efficacy, their practices with children and colleagues, their own well-being, and the probability that they will stay and grow professionally within the ECEC sector (Sim et al., 2019[2]).

By giving ECEC staff and leaders a voice on issues surrounding their work, TALIS Starting Strong complements and extends existing international data on structural characteristics of ECEC and countries’ policies in this area (OECD, 2017[3]). This report includes results from staff (those who work regularly in a pedagogical way with children) and leaders (those with the most responsibility for administrative, managerial and/or pedagogical leadership at the centre level) in pre-primary settings (ISCED Level 02) in nine countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway and Turkey). It also presents results from staff and leaders in centres providing ECEC to children under age 3 in four countries (Denmark, Germany, Israel and Norway).

The analytical framework for this report identifies three main and interlinked policy areas as key pillars to attract, maintain and retain a high-quality workforce in the ECEC sector (Figure 1.1).

Policies for skills development, encompassing initial preparation programmes, in-service training and opportunities for informal learning. These policies serve to attract and prepare new entrants to the profession and to maintain a high-quality workforce by providing opportunities for skill upgrading training and career progression.

Policies on staff working conditions, including salaries, contract status, the organisation of work, and resources to reduce stress and promote well-being at work. These policies can help sustain a positive climate at the workplace, limit stress and increase job satisfaction, and thereby the capacity of the sector to retain highly skilled and motivated professionals.

Policies on leadership and management in ECEC centres, which play an important role in creating opportunities for skills development for staff and improving their working conditions and working methods. These policies contribute to the capacity of the sector to retain staff, not least since leadership roles can themselves be an attractive next step for staff seeking more responsibilities.

Equity is a transversal issue to the three policy areas. Equity considerations include how staff skills, working conditions and leadership practices vary across ECEC centres with more and less diverse groups of children and with different levels of resources.

This chapter provides an overview of the report and a summary of its main findings, and sets out policy pointers organised in policy areas and supported by empirical findings from TALIS Starting Strong. A data overview included at the end of the chapter presents, for the participating countries, a list of key indicators towards building and retaining a high-quality ECEC workforce.

The evolving notion of professionalism in the ECEC sector reflects the active role of staff in developing their knowledge and skills, including through structured training, collaboration with colleagues, ownership of their professional practice and a commitment to continuous improvement. Policies can support ECEC staff in becoming lifelong learners by providing consistent pathways for skills development that are accessible to all staff, and by creating conditions for staff to embrace a professional growth mind-set. Such pathways should span across career stages and build on the alignment of initial preparation programmes, in-service training activities and opportunities for informal learning. These issues are critical to make the profession more attractive to potential candidates, to keep staff motivated and engaged, to establish avenues for career progression, and to ensure high-quality ECEC for children.

Results from TALIS Starting Strong underline the need to strengthen the initial preparation of ECEC staff, while being a testament to their strong engagement in continuous professional development. Across participating countries, about three in four staff report having at least some post-secondary education (ISCED Level 4 or above), and a similar proportion report having completed an education or training programme that prepared them to work with children, ranging from 64% of staff in Iceland to 97% of staff in Germany (OECD, 2019[1]). In turn, staff levels of participation in in-service training during the 12 months prior to the survey are over 75% in all countries, being generally higher among staff in teaching than in assistant roles (see Figure 2.4). Across countries, courses and seminars remain the most common type of training activity by a large margin, with online activities and qualification programmes being the least common, on average (see Figure 2.5).

This volume sheds new light on how training programmes in the ECEC sector compare across countries. Chapter 2 distinguishes nine broad content areas of training, reflecting major themes of ECEC education and professional development identified by the research literature (OECD, 2018[4]; Sim et al., 2019[2]). An important finding relates to the integration of workplace-based learning into initial preparation programmes. TALIS Starting Strong data show that close to 70% of ECEC staff across countries completed a practical module during their pre-service education and training to work with children, although this varies notably between countries (see Figure 2.2). Importantly, results in this volume show that staff who underwent a “practicum” covered more areas in their pre-service training than staff whose programmes did not have such a practical dimension, and in particular topics that are less often integrated into initial preparation programmes, such as working with a diversity of children or working with parents and families (see Figure 2.3). This suggests that practical placements in real work settings serve not only to bridge theory and practice in ECEC initial preparation programmes, but also to broaden their curricular contents.

While initial preparation programmes are comprehensive in all of the countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, more variation exists in the thematic breadth of in-service training, with staff covering the highest number of content areas in Korea and the smallest number in Germany and Turkey in the 12 months prior to the survey. This may reflect differences across countries in the design of in-service training offerings, or in the incentives for staff to choose between variety and focus in their training options.

Analyses in Chapter 2 consistently suggest that the breadth of training of ECEC staff is positively associated with attitudes and practices related to process quality. Across the nine participating countries, staff whose training included a greater number of thematic areas reported a stronger sense of self-efficacy than staff whose training included fewer areas, especially at the pre-primary level (see Table 2.3). Similarly, in all participating countries, pre-primary staff who covered a greater number of areas in both pre-service and recent in-service training report a greater use of adaptive practices with children (i.e. practices to engage children according to their backgrounds, interests and needs) than staff having covered fewer areas in their training, and so do staff in centres for children under age 3 in Israel and Norway (see Table 2.4). Moreover, in Israel, Japan and Norway, breadth of training is also associated with a greater use by staff of practices for behavioural support.

TALIS Starting Strong provides a perspective into the alignment of the professional development undertaken by ECEC staff at different stages of their careers. Analyses of staff training trajectories in different areas of work indicate that, most often, the contents of recent in-service training overlap thematically with those included in initial preparation programmes. For instance, across countries, the percentage of pre-primary staff for whom each thematic area covered in recent in-service professional development had not been part of their prior training is below 10% (see Figure 2.11). This suggests that, across a diverse set of ECEC systems, ongoing professional development serves primarily to provide staff with opportunities to deepen or update their knowledge and skills in the same areas covered during their initial preparation to enter the profession.

The likelihood that staff report a strong sense of self-efficacy for helping children to develop creativity and problem solving tends to be higher for staff who covered related training contents in both their pre-service and in-service training than for staff who covered such contents at one point in time only or who lack training in the area (see Figure 2.15). Cumulative training bears also the strongest association with staff sense of self-efficacy in other areas or work, including adapting work to individual child needs, helping children to prepare for starting school, and monitoring and documenting child development (Table C.2.19).

Staff training trajectories are also associated with the use of specific practices with children. In most countries, staff whose pre-service and recent in-service training included contents about working with a diversity of children, such as tailoring activities to suit different children’s interests, levels of development or cultural backgrounds, adapt their practices to children’s needs and interests more than staff with less training exposure to these topics, as when covered in initial preparation only, in-service training only or not covered at all (see Figure 2.16). Staff training trajectories in relation to classroom/playgroup/group management are also associated with the use of behavioural support practices with children in Israel and Norway at the pre-primary level (Table C.2.22).

Strategies to develop the skills of ECEC professionals should explore synergies between formal and informal learning. TALIS Starting Strong provides rich information not only about structured training, but also about the frequency and types of collaborative practices in which staff engage in their ECEC centres. Professional collaboration represents an important avenue for informal learning, for instance through knowledge sharing in joint activities and discussions with colleagues.

Results in this volume show that ECEC staff who are more strongly engaged in collaborative professional practices are also more likely to participate in training activities, underscoring the potential interactions between formal and informal channels for developing the skills of the ECEC workforce. Across countries and both among pre-primary staff and staff in centres for children under age 3, stronger engagement in collaboration with colleagues working in the same ECEC centre is positively and consistently associated with staff’s individual participation in recent in-service training, as well as with the variety of formats and the number of topics covered in such activities (see Table 2.2). For instance, a one standard deviation increase in the staff scale of collaborative practices is associated with a 60% greater likelihood that pre-primary staff participate in recent in-service training activities in Norway; a 40% increase in Korea; a 30% increase in Chile, Iceland and Japan; and with smaller increases in Germany, Israel and Turkey. Staff in Norway stand out for their strong engagement in collaborative practices, such as feedback exchanges and joint activities across different groups of children, while maintaining high levels of participation in formal training.

The findings above support two policy pointers for developing the skills of the ECEC workforce:

Initial preparation programmes for working in the ECEC sector should embrace ambitious quality standards as a way to equip future staff with strong skills and raise the status of ECEC professionals. Analyses in this volume show that levels of completion of pre-service programmes focused on working with children and of practical modules are generally similar between novice and experienced staff (Table C.2.2). At the same time, results point to the strengths of programmes with broad curricular designs and which include practical modules in workplace settings as a way of exposing career entrants to a wide range of topics. The breadth of initial preparation programmes remains the basis on which to ground subsequent professional development, aligned across career stages. Such alignment should attend to multiple dimensions. It should build on foundational education and training to update and upgrade staff’s knowledge and skills in the evolving field of ECEC, keeping up with research developments and changing tools and practices. It should map onto career progression pathways for staff seeking new and greater responsibilities in their ECEC centres and the sector at large. And it should enable staff to develop skills required to better support the specific populations of children that they work with, attending to their diversity across ECEC centres. Achieving better alignment and more effective skills development for ECEC staff in turn calls for a careful assessment of professional development needs at the individual, centre, and regional or national levels, and for measures that support staff in navigating the professional development offer to access the training the most relevant to their needs.

However, professional development that is broad in thematic scope but poor in quality will fall short of delivering these results. ECEC systems should keep a strong focus on the quality of the contents and delivery, aspects on which TALIS Starting Strong can only provide indirect evidence. As noted in Chapter 2, the associations of training indicators with staff sense of self-efficacy and practices with children are most consistent in Israel and Norway, which points to a strong quality dimension of the professional development for ECEC staff in these two countries.

While findings point to the importance of well-aligned professional development, ECEC systems can also maintain different goals for initial preparation programmes and in-service training. Programmes including a greater number of areas may help ECEC staff to develop more flexible ways of thinking and to transfer knowledge and approaches from one area to another, but training with a more specific and in-depth focus may be more important for developing more specialised skills and practices, particularly in connection to the specific challenges encountered in different ECEC centres. Moreover, in-service professional development should not only serve to extend and update contents in foundational areas, but also to introduce staff to new topics and skills not included in their initial preparation. Training for the effective use of digital technologies to support children’s learning, development and well-being and for working with a diversity of children are candidates for this approach, given the relatively low sense of self-efficacy reported for staff in these areas across all the participating countries in TALIS Starting Strong.

ECEC systems could support a gradual transition towards more collaborative and centre-based approaches to professional development in the ECEC sector. These approaches acknowledge and promote an active role for staff, both individually and collectively, as reflective professionals, while emphasising context-based processes connected to staff’s everyday work and resources and to the needs of the children attending their ECEC centres.

Formal and informal learning can be combined particularly well in centre-embedded professional development. This approach is attracting growing interest in many ECEC systems because of its capacity to tie in with staff’s experience and needs and to build on existing resources and trust at the centre level. Coaching and mentoring are often highlighted as two promising models. Analyses in this volume show that centre-embedded approaches for professional development remain less common than traditional, off-site training activities such as courses, seminars or conferences. On average across countries, only 44% of ECEC staff received coaching by an external person; less than 40% engaged in formal peer or self-observation activities or visits to other centres; and only 32% were involved in induction or mentoring activities. Teachers in Israel and, to a lesser extent, Japan and Korea, report the highest levels of participation in centre-embedded professional development. However, across countries, assistants report lower levels of participation than teachers in these activities, and particular efforts may be needed to ensure that collaborative learning benefits staff with different roles within ECEC centres.

While staff can play a critical role in initiating, shaping and providing collaborative learning opportunities to their peers, ECEC systems also need to provide structural supports for knowledge sharing and joint activities among ECEC staff. Examples may include making time available for collaboration in staff schedules, requiring ECEC centres to develop collaboration-focused strategies as part of their professional development plans, and assigning and supporting centre-level personnel with responsibilities to encourage and develop teamwork opportunities.

Japan, and to a lesser extent Germany, Korea and Turkey, are countries with strong pre-service education and training for their ECEC staff, most of whom join the profession with high levels of educational attainment (Table 1.2, Indicator A.1), having received training specifically to work with children (Table 1.2, Indicator A.2) and having completed a workplace-based practical module during their initial preparation (Table 1.2, Indicator A.3). Chile and Iceland are countries where stronger requirements for acquiring pre-service practical experience in ECEC settings could help boost the early career skills of ECEC staff.

Initial preparation programmes appear broad in scope in all countries, exposing future staff to most of the thematic areas on which TALIS Starting Strong collected information (Table 1.2, Indicator A.4). A positive sign of development is that, in most countries, the percentage of teachers whose programmes included contents about working with a diversity of children is higher among novice teachers than among experienced teachers (see Table C.2.2), as this suggests changes in curricular design over time. At the pre-primary level, staff pre-service training in this area is the highest in Japan and Turkey (Table 1.2, Indicator A.5). In centres for children under age 3, it is the highest for staff in Norway (Table 1.2, Indicator A.5).

Approaches to in-service professional development vary across countries. At the pre-primary level, participation in recent in-service training activities is virtually universal in Korea and high in Japan, exposing staff to a wide range of contents in both countries. Levels of participation are also high in other countries, and especially in Norway, where staff tend to cover a smaller number of areas during such training: this is also the case of Germany, Iceland and Turkey (Table 1.2, Indicators A.6 and A.7). In pre-primary settings in Israel, levels of participation and the breadth of in-service training vary notably between teachers and assistants (see Table C.2.4), reflecting marked differences in responsibilities and duties. Consistent with these different models, the percentage of staff covering contents related to key areas such as child development, diversity or pedagogy tends to be higher in Japan and Korea, and lower in Germany, Iceland and Turkey (Table 1.2, Indicators A.12-14). However, besides thematic overlap, other quality aspects influence the alignment of professional development: staff perceptions about the relevance of in-service training offerings are broadly positive in Israel and Turkey, and especially in Norway, but less so in Chile and Korea (Table 1.2, Indicator A.15). Countries can also use staff’s own needs assessments to improve the design of their professional development. For instance, in Chile and Japan, a majority of staff report a high level of need for further training for working with a diversity of children (Table 1.2, Indicator A.16).

At the pre-primary level, staff in Israel, Japan and Korea have the highest levels of participation in centre-embedded forms of professional development such as peer observation, coaching and mentoring arrangements, a result that is also observed for Israel in centres for children under age 3 (Table 1.2, Indicators A.8 and A.9). These appear as policy choices for delivery models because centre-embedded activities are less frequent in other countries where overall participation levels in in-service training are similar or higher to Israel, Japan or Korea (Table 1.2, Indicator A.6). In turn, Iceland, Norway and Turkey are countries where pre-primary staff more frequently engage in discussions with colleagues about children’s development, well-being and learning and provide feedback to other staff about their practice, as do staff in centres for children under age 3 in Norway. These collaborative practices, channels for informal learning, are relatively less frequent among pre-primary staff in Chile and Korea (Table 1.2, Indicators A.10 and A.11).

Staff’s working conditions and well-being are key determinants of the capacity of the ECEC sector to attract and retain good candidates in the profession and reduce turnover. With the demand for ECEC expanding in many countries, attracting and retaining skilled staff has become a challenge. TALIS Starting Strong shows that staff absences and shortages hinder the functioning of the sector by creating tensions for both ECEC leaders and staff in many countries. Staff’s working conditions such as salaries, opportunities for career progression and contractual status have a direct impact on the capacity to attract new candidates to the sector. Together with other aspects such as the quality of the working environment at ECEC centres, they also matter for staff’s well-being and stress at work, which in turn might be a reason for some staff to leave the sector.

TALIS Starting Strong includes information on many aspects of the working conditions of ECEC staff: working time, time allocated to different tasks, contractual status, satisfaction with salary and the working environment, such as collaboration with colleagues and support received from leaders. The survey gives a mixed picture of ECEC staff’s working conditions with aspects that both encourage and discourage joining and remaining in the profession and large variation in the quality of such conditions across and within countries.

Relatively low salaries together with limited career progression opportunities can act as a barrier to attract and retain staff in the ECEC sector. On average across participating countries for the pre-primary level, 29% of staff “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary while this percentage amounts to 39% on average in OECD countries for teachers at the lower secondary level (see Figure 3.2). When asked about the most likely reason to leave the job, staff indicate retirement, leaving for health-related reasons, attending to family responsibilities and work in a different job not in the ECEC sector, which suggests that ECEC staff envisage limited possibilities for career progression.

Working hours are relatively low in Iceland and Norway and to some extent in Germany and there is little variation within these countries. In contrast, working hours are relatively high in Japan and Korea and to some extent Chile and there is large variation within these countries. The higher working hours and the larger variability in these countries are driven by the number of hours spent without children, which can include work at home. Staff who spend a larger percentage of their time without children express a higher level of stress in areas such as administrative work.

Staff’s perceptions of their working environment vary largely within countries and to some extent across countries. For instance, from 24% of staff in Iceland to 71% in Korea report that they need more support from their leader (see Figure 3.9). Collaborative practices can be expanded in scope and extended to all staff as they are more frequent for staff working full time, with a permanent contract and with a higher level of initial education.

Well-being at work includes several dimensions, such as the state of being happy and satisfied at work, but also feeling comfortable with the tasks to perform and recognised by others for the work one does. Overall, staff in all countries show a high level of satisfaction with the profession and their current job with more than 93% of pre-primary staff “agreeing” or “strongly agreeing” that “All in all, I am satisfied with my job” (see Figure 3.12), which is slightly more than on average in OECD countries for lower secondary teachers.

Feeling comfortable and confident in performing the various tasks of the job is an important aspect of well-being. Staff generally express high levels of self-efficacy in supporting children’s development, learning and well-being but a lower level of self-efficacy in working with a diversity of children and use of digital technology, two areas where demands on staff are growing given the trends of increasing diversity and digitalisation in ECEC settings. Staff with a high sense of self-efficacy make greater use of practices to adapt to children’s interest and needs and report less stress for some areas of their work.

Feeling valued by society also contributes to well-being as it relates to feelings of being recognised for the job and valued by others. From 75% of staff in Israel for pre-primary to 31% in Japan feel valued by society (see Figure 3.14), which is above the OECD average for teachers in lower secondary education (26%). In several countries, staff with a lower educational attainment, less pedagogical responsibilities (assistants versus teachers), and less experience feel more valued by society than other staff. These findings may be a source of concern for the prospect of retaining staff who have completed higher education and who have worked in the sector for a longer time and in more demanding roles in the sector.

Among the various dimensions of well-being, a key one is staff’s stress at work, which is linked to engagement with work, risk of burnout and motivation to leave the profession. TALIS Starting Strong asks staff about whether and to what extent various aspects of their work are a source of stress. Among the main categories included in the survey, for all countries at pre-primary level and for staff working with children under age 3, stress related to workload due to insufficient human or financial resources (including, for instance, “too many children in my classroom/playgroup/group”) is a major source of stress. Workload stress coming from work outside hours spent with children (including, for instance, “too much administrative work to do”) is also an important source of stress in several countries. In contrast, in most countries, smaller percentages of staff report working with children and job-related responsibilities (including, for instance, “being held responsible for children’s development, well-being and learning”) as a high source of stress.

Feelings of stress are related to the working conditions. For instance, staff with a large number of children in the target group are more likely to report stress from too many children in the classroom/playgroup/group and staff who spend a larger percentage of their working time without children are more likely to report stress from too much administrative work. However, the many aspects of working conditions matter and feelings of stress emerge from imbalances between job demands, resources to address these demands and rewards for effort. This report proposes new analyses on the main drivers of the various sources of stress that look at the imbalances between factors that enhance stress (job demands) and factors that mitigate it (job resources and rewards), following the job demands-resources/rewards models.

Results from these analyses show that in some countries, staff exposed to some sources of stress benefit from some buffers of stress, such as support from leaders, satisfaction with salaries, and sense of self-efficacy. For instance, when both demands and resources are accounted for, in Denmark in centres for children under age 3 (with low response rates) and in Norway for both levels of education, staff who work with a larger target group are not more stressed than others by having too many children in the target group. In Germany and Iceland for pre-primary and in Denmark (with low response rates) and Norway for both levels of education, staff who spend more time on administrative work are not more stressed than others by having too much administrative work, when both demands and resources or rewards are accounted for.

The findings above point to the following policy levers for ensuring that working conditions support ECEC staff in their work and contribute to attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce.

Results from TALIS Starting Strong show that there is room to improve ECEC staff’s working conditions in many areas. However, as ECEC budgets are limited, improving staff’s working conditions involves some trade-offs. Analyses presented in Chapter 3 on the main drivers of four specific sources of stress provide indications on how to mitigate stress by improving some specific work conditions and achieve a better balance between factors that increase stress (job demands) and those that mitigate it (job resources and rewards).

Policies can aim at mitigating stress by considering the various aspects of ECEC staff working conditions and targeting those for which changes are financially feasible and can lead to several benefits. Identifying staff who are particularly exposed to some sources of stress and achieving a better balance between factors that increase and mitigate stress is another important strategy to address the issue of stress in the profession. For instance, countries where having too many children in the group is an important source of stress can ensure that staff with large groups of children receive training on classroom/playgroup/group management, are supported by leaders, can exchange with colleagues and possibly receive higher wages. Countries where satisfaction with salary is particularly low and does not provide a feeling of reward for the effort made can aim to provide flexibility to organise the work and a good alignment between working time and the tasks to be performed.

Analyses in Chapter 3 point to policy areas with multiple benefits. For instance, policies that support ECEC staff’s skills development throughout their careers through various means, from formal to informal learning, can boost self-efficacy, which can in turn improve the quality of practices with children and mitigate stress.

Improving salaries and opportunities for career progression can be a long-term objective as a reward for the efforts of ECEC staff, and a way to improve staff retention and the capacity of the ECEC sector to attract good candidates.

As ECEC centres have been closed in many countries as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance and value of ECEC staff have become more evident for policy makers and society in general. Information collected for this report suggests that in some countries there have been losses in terms of salary and jobs in the ECEC sector (see Table 1.1). In this context, some countries have taken steps to support the ECEC workforce on a temporary basis, and the financial package of ECEC staff might be reconsidered on a more long-term basis. Countries where the salaries of ECEC teachers are below those of primary teachers, especially when educational requirements are similar, can aim to align salaries in both sectors. To contain the cost of this policy, ECEC staff with highly demanding work (e.g. those working with large groups of children or with a large diversity of children or with important administrative responsibilities) can be targeted first for salary increases.

In addition to conditions at the beginning of the ECEC career, salaries and responsibilities need to progress jointly throughout staff’s professional life. Opportunities for career progression need to include both horizontal and vertical transitions, for instance through the possibility of diversifying responsibilities (horizontal transition) before changing status, such as moving from assistant to teacher or from teacher to leader (vertical transitions). Policies can support the development of career pathways for the various categories of staff through clear competency frameworks for various roles and the recognition of skills acquired and competencies acquired informally.

ECEC staff are expected to engage in a range of activities beyond working directly with children. Results from this report show that staff who spend a higher percentage of their time working without children are more likely to be stressed by work performed without children, such as administrative work. In addition, in countries and centres with greater amounts of time spent without children, which includes work performed at home, overall working time is longer. These findings suggest that staff tend to lack the time needed to perform the work without children and that this leads to work at home and stress. This is particularly the case in some countries, such as Chile, Japan and Korea.

These findings point to the need to ensure that staff can devote sufficient time to individual planning, collaboration with colleagues or parents, documenting children’s development, and administrative tasks, for instance by providing protected time for these activities, as it is the case in a number of countries (see Table 3.16). The organisation of the work can also play an important role, for instance by ensuring that leaders have the flexibility to effectively organise working time within their centres and by organising complementarities between staff members, such as teachers working in tandem with assistants.

A supportive working environment at the ECEC centre has multiple benefits that relate not only to the quality of staff’s interactions with children or process quality but also to staff’s well-being and motivation to stay in the profession.

Instilling a collegial work culture that supports peer learning, exchanging ideas, a good level of autonomy and a set of responsibilities depends on a multiplicity of factors that are not easily regulated by policies and take time to develop. However, when in place, a supportive working environment can help staff cope with the demanding aspects of their work or to some extent mitigate feelings of dissatisfaction due to low salaries or lack of recognition of the profession.

Policies need to act on many fronts to support the quality of the working environment in general and of the interactions between staff members and leaders more specifically. Policies discussed above that create conditions to promote informal learning among ECEC professionals and prioritise centre-embedded approaches for in-service training are key levers. Defining clear roles and responsibilities for leaders and preparing them for these roles and responsibilities, as discussed below, are other important policy areas.

Indicators of the data overview on ECEC staff’s working conditions and well-being show a lot of consistencies across various indicators for several countries. For instance, ECEC staff in Norway report positively on many aspects of their working conditions and well-being, especially for staff working in pre-primary education but also to a large extent for staff in centres for children under age 3. This is also to some extent the case in Turkey. In contrast, ECEC staff in Japan and Korea report quite negatively on several aspects of their working conditions and on well-being. Cultural biases in response rates may contribute to these results. These biases could be higher for questions related to working conditions and well-being than for other areas of the TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire. Nonetheless, findings for Korea and Japan warrant policy attention.

Salaries, job security and career progression opportunities (Table 1.2, Indicators B.1, B.2 and B.3) appear generally supportive in Germany, Israel, Norway and Turkey for pre-primary. In contrast, in Iceland, the percentage of staff that are dissatisfied with their salaries and report possibilities to leave the ECEC sector are relatively high. Workload may be high in Japan and Korea and to some extent Chile, where staff report a high number of hours on tasks related to the job at the ECEC centre (Table 1.2, Indicator B.4) and in particular a large number of hours spent without children (Table 1.2, Indicator B.5).

The quality of the working environment in ECEC centres is captured in TALIS Starting Strong through indicators of staff influence over decisions (Table 1.2, Indicator B.6), co-operation with others (Table 1.2, Indicator B.7) and support from leaders (Table 1.2, Indicator B.8). The working environment seems to be of a relatively high quality on average in pre-primary centres in Germany, Iceland, Norway and Turkey. Smaller percentages of staff report having control over decisions (Table 1.2, Indicator B.6), which can help staff deal with multiple demands, in Chile, Japan and Norway (for both levels of education). In Korea and Israel for centres for children under age 3, policies can aim at strengthening leadership to ensure that staff receive sufficient support in their everyday work with children.

Differences in satisfaction with working conditions across countries translate into differences in staff’s well-being. In Israel and Norway for both levels of education and in Turkey for pre-primary, a large majority of staff are satisfied with their job and a majority of them feel valued by society (Table 1.2, Indicators B.10 and B.9). When four different sources of stress are considered, less than 20% of staff report high stress for each of these sources of stress only in Chile (Table 1.2, Indicators B.11-B.14). In Germany (for both levels of education), Iceland and Korea, large percentages of staff indicate resolving health-related issues as the most likely reason to leave the profession (Table 1.2, Indicator B.15). In these three countries and in Chile, Japan and Norway, those who are more stressed are more likely to indicate this reason as the most likely reason to leave (Table 1.2, Indicator B.16), which points to the need for policies aiming to mitigate stress for some categories of staff.

Leadership is key to supporting and sustaining quality in ECEC settings and for creating a stimulating environment for both staff and children. Effective leadership establishes organisational conditions that promote process quality, thereby fostering children’s learning, development and well-being. The influence of effective leadership operates mainly through improved working conditions for the staff of ECEC centres, which includes measures to mitigate stress and facilitate engagement in continuous professional development. To ensure that ECEC centre leaders are in a good position to guide the work of staff and shape the centre’s organisational culture, ECEC systems should provide leaders with quality working conditions and adequate resources, and invest in new models of leadership development.

Leadership carries many different meanings, and while formal job profiles and requirements differ across countries, leaders of ECEC centres are typically expected to manage budgets and staff and to promote a quality learning environment. Centre leaders typically also interact with children themselves and may take part in learning and play. Among these various tasks, research has identified two main broad functions for ECEC leadership: administrative and pedagogical. Other important functions, which partly overlap with these administrative and pedagogical tasks, include engagement with parents and the community.

In almost all participating countries, administrative leadership accounts on average for at least 30% of leaders’ time in ECEC centres. Pedagogical leadership makes up at least 25% of leaders’ time in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Iceland, Japan and Korea at pre-primary level, and in centres for children under age 3 in Israel. Besides the time dedicated to administrative and pedagogical functions, leadership profiles vary notably across countries in other dimensions, too. For instance, interactions with children take up more than 50% of the time of pre-primary leaders in Israel and about 30% of leaders’ time in Germany at both the pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3. By contrast, leaders in Iceland spend 14% of their time interacting with children. In turn, interactions with parents or guardians are particularly important in Turkey, as well as in Israel (both levels), Korea and Japan (see Figure 4.6). Work with the community also seems to be especially important in Korea and Turkey, with relatively high shares of leaders reporting that the centre works with the local neighbourhood “quite a bit” or “a lot” (see Figure 4.10).

This volume shows a positive association between the pedagogical work and support that centre leaders provide for their staff and various indicators of process quality in ECEC centres. With regard to collaborative practices within centres, staff with more positive views on different aspects of pedagogical leadership tend to collaborate to a greater extent with their peers relative to staff with less positive views about their leaders in this particular function (see Figure 4.17).

Pedagogical leadership bears also a positive association with staff attitudes, including their sense of self-efficacy. Analyses show that staff’s confidence in their ability to promote child development, learning and well-being is positively and consistently associated with strong pedagogical leadership, as perceived by staff, in all countries participating in the survey. This holds true for the different dimensions of pedagogical leadership on which staff were surveyed, such as leaders setting a clear vision or ensuring that staff feel responsible for children’s development (Table C.4.34). At the pre-primary level in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Norway and Turkey, and in centres for children under age 3 in Germany, Israel and Norway, positive associations are also observed between staff perceptions of pedagogical leadership and staff confidence in their ability to work across a number of specific areas, such as adapting their work to individual child needs (Table C.4.35).

Lastly, leaders’ engagement in pedagogical leadership activities appears also positively related to staff’s actual reported practices with children at the centre level. For instance, staff who perceive that their centre leaders clearly succeed in ensuring that staff feel responsible for their children’s learning and development or in ensuring that staff take responsibility for improving their practices are more likely to report the use of practices for facilitating children’s literacy development at the centre level in eight out of nine countries. Similar results are observed for other staff practices such as facilitating prosocial behaviour or emotional development (Table C.4.36).

Leadership functions or tasks may be structured in different ways. They can be exercised by a formal centre leader alone in a hierarchical manner or may be distributed among a team or shared with ECEC staff. This is referred to as distributed leadership, in contrast to a hierarchical structure, although there is a continuum of structures between them (Douglass, 2019[5]). While parents and children can also be involved in centre decision making, this volume focuses on the involvement of staff specifically.

Staff are generally positive about the possibility to influence decisions in their ECEC centres, but distributed leadership, as reported by staff in ECEC centres, is not equally widespread in all countries. While more than 90% of staff “agree” or “strongly agree” that leadership is distributed in Israel (at both the pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3) and Turkey, less than 80% of pre-primary staff do so in Chile, Japan and Norway (see Figure 4.15). Leaders also generally report that their ECEC centre offers opportunities for staff to be involved in decision making and a culture of shared responsibility. However, in Chile, Iceland, Israel (for both levels of education) and Japan, centre leaders also “strongly agree” with the statement that they take the important decisions on their own (Table C.4.26).

Analyses in this volume suggest that pedagogical and distributed leadership often go hand in hand, as leaders who report a distributed approach to leadership also report greater engagement to support their staff in pedagogical tasks (see Figure 4.16). Moreover, staff who perceive leadership as being distributed in their centres tend to collaborate more with their colleagues (see Figure 4.18).

Organisational cultures and structures can also influence the autonomy and independence of staff over their work, which in turn can influence staff satisfaction, motivation and retention. Results from TALIS Starting Strong reveal, in all participating countries, a positive association between distributed leadership structures and different indicators of staff satisfaction. Compared to staff who perceive fewer opportunities for participating in centre decisions, staff who strongly agree that the centre leader encourages all staff to have a say in important decisions are at least twice as likely to report that they enjoy working at their centre, to recommend their centre as a good place to work or to be satisfied with their job overall (see Figure 4.19).

The characteristics of ECEC centres, such as their size or level of autonomy, as well as the initial preparation and continuous development of leaders shape the conditions for leaders to engage in their different functions. These contextual factors also influence the possibilities for establishing a climate of trust and openness among staff and leaders, thereby influencing leadership and management practices within ECEC centres. Compared to leaders in the smallest centres within countries, leaders in the largest centres tend to spend less time interacting with children in all countries, at both the pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3 (see Figure 4.7), and more time on administration in Denmark (with low response rates), Iceland and Norway at the pre-primary level, and in Germany at both levels (see Figure 4.8).

In turn, leaders’ engagement in pedagogical leadership varies little by their level of qualification or experience, whereas it differs by the focus of training that leaders have completed (see Table 4.1). In Israel and Korea at the pre-primary level, and in Germany in centres for children under age 3, leaders whose training included pedagogical leadership engage more frequently in this type of task than leaders without training in that area. The same holds true regarding general training to prepare leaders to work in early childhood in Japan, Korea and Turkey at the pre-primary level (see Table 4.1). Further, at the pre-primary level in Germany and Israel, leaders who reported that planning for staff professional development was part of their responsibilities also reported more engagement in different pedagogical leadership tasks than those without responsibilities in this area (Table C.4.18).

Leaders’ working conditions are another important aspect of the context that influences how effectively they can manage and lead the work of their ECEC centre, by contributing to their job satisfaction and well-being. As analysed in this volume, leaders across countries are highly satisfied with their jobs and highly enjoy working at their current ECEC centres. At the same time, however, they are generally less satisfied with their salaries and terms of employment (see Figure 4.21). Among sources of work-related stress, administrative workload features among the most important issues for leaders (Table C.4.10).

The findings above point to the following policy levers to make the most of the ECEC centre leadership profession and support ECEC centre leaders in shaping the organisational conditions in which staff thrive and children learn and develop.

The leadership of ECEC centres entails a variety of functions and responsibilities, the balance of which differs across and within countries depending on specific contexts and needs. Regardless of particular job profiles, the ECEC centre leadership role entails the juggling of multiple tasks and the careful management of time and resources. The demanding nature of ECEC centre leadership should be sufficiently reflected in employment conditions, such as remuneration, to help attract staff to leadership roles and encourage them to stay. Adequate support systems may help mitigate work-related stress, such as the one stemming from too much administrative work, and support leaders in balancing their functions.

Supporting ECEC centre leaders in fulfilling their multiple functions also requires attention to aspects such as the size of centres or the extent of the centre’s autonomy, and the particular demands they create. Based on the analyses for this volume, centre size, for example, appears to be an important factor influencing the way centre leaders spend their time, be it on interactions with children, administrative tasks or pedagogical leadership. Centres of different sizes may hence require different resources and supports as well as leadership structures.

To support leaders in fulfilling the many demands on their time, different actors in the ECEC sector should have a clear and shared understanding of the nature of the leadership role, and those aspects which best support staff in working with children, while recognising that leaders’ engagement in their functions also depends on the centre’s specific context, such as the composition of the children in the centre. The different leadership functions, such as centre administration or work with parents and the community, have their respective roles to play in supporting staff and fostering process quality. However, leading the pedagogical work of ECEC centres should make up a significant part of ECEC centre leaders’ role in practice, and leaders should have opportunities to develop their competencies in this area. As also suggested by analyses in this volume, the content of leadership preparation may help set expectations to engage in specific functions and to develop the necessary skills to fulfil them.

Distributed leadership structures may not only help ECEC centre leaders to fulfil their different functions and strengthen the quality of leadership in ECEC centres overall, but may also help to motivate and retain staff by giving them a sense of ownership over their work and centre. Data from the survey suggest that, from the perspective of staff, distributed leadership structures are not always well established in different countries, and could be further developed.

The further distribution of leadership also depends on organisational cultures and climates in ECEC centres and the opportunities individual ECEC centre leaders create for staff (and others, such as parents) to participate in the centre’s decision making. For instance, leaders can establish specific organisational structures and processes that foster leadership, encourage staff to take on responsibilities, and provide feedback to them. Moreover, it depends on staff themselves exercising agency and taking on informal leadership within their centre, for example by mentoring colleagues or engaging with parents.

However, also policy can support a more broadly shared distribution of leadership tasks and responsibilities. For instance, various models for distributing leadership could be part of the preparation of ECEC centre leaders, while staff could also learn about leadership research, theory and practice as part of their initial or continuous training. Policy can furthermore create specific middle leadership positions with differentiated pedagogical or administrative roles, which, combined with related preparation and training, can help establish an effective leadership pipeline. This volume provides some policy examples for such structures in ECEC centres, such as the role of leading teacher in Israel and the distinction between head teachers and pedagogical leaders in Norway.

The indicators of the scoreboard on ECEC centre leadership and management illustrate the different leadership profiles across countries in terms of functions and structures, and highlight areas that may be considered to further develop the leadership capacity in ECEC centres in different countries.

Looking at leader responsibilities and centre autonomy, the hiring of staff represents a key process to ensure not only that staff are qualified, but also to shape the organisational climate and culture of an ECEC centre and to create a good match between individuals and the organisation. Pre-primary leaders in Israel and Turkey, in particular, are less likely to report that they have significant responsibility for appointing staff than in other countries, although this is also true for Chile and Japan, albeit to a lesser extent. In Iceland and Norway (for both pre-primary centres and centres for children under age 3), a large share of leaders report having significant responsibilities for hiring staff and low levels of dissatisfaction with their degree of influence (Indicators C.1 and C.2).

In terms of the different leadership functions, Israel, especially for centres for children under age 3 but also for pre-primary centres and to some extent Turkey appear to combine effective pedagogical and administrative leadership. In these countries, a relatively small percentage of leaders report being stressed by administrative work while a relatively large percentage of staff report that performance are managed effectively (Indicators C.3 and C.4). Large percentages of staff in these countries also report that leaders support staff in their practices, which reflects that pedagogical leadership is exercised (Indicators C.5 and C.6). Germany appears as a country where administrative and pedagogical leadership could become more effective.

In Chile and Japan both formal and informal communication with parents is frequent. In Iceland and Norway, for both levels of education, large shares of centres also communicate with parents informally every day, but formal forms of engagement are much less frequent (Indicators C.7 and C.8). Work with the local neighbourhood seems to be particularly important to leaders and centres in Korea and Turkey, and less so in Germany and Norway for both pre-primary leaders and leaders of centres for children under age 3 (Indicator C.9). Communication with staff and/or leaders from other ECEC centres appears to be most frequent at pre-primary level in Israel and Japan, and in Norway in both pre-primary education and centres for children under age 3 (Indicator C.10).

Leadership is particularly strongly shared with staff in ECEC centres in Israel but less so in Chile, Japan and Norway (Indicator C.11).

With regards to leaders’ initial training and professional development, a particularly high share of pre-primary leaders report having been trained in pedagogical leadership in Norway, but also in Chile, Iceland, Japan and Korea (Indicator C.12). Participation in peer and/or self-observation and coaching as part of their continuous professional development during the 12 months prior to the survey is more common in Korea and for pre-primary leaders and leaders of centres for children under age 3 in Israel (Indicator C.13). A lack of available staff to compensate for the leader’s absence seems to be a particular barrier in Korea, and to some extent in Japan, at least compared to other countries (Indicator C.14).

Working conditions seem to be especially favourable for leaders in Norway at pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3, with a comparatively high share of leaders reporting being satisfied with their salary and a low share of leaders reporting requiring more support from their authorities. In Chile and Turkey, leaders are relatively satisfied with their remuneration, but at the same time, a relatively large share of leaders report needing more support from their authorities (Indicators C.15 and C.16).

The provision of high-quality early childhood education and care is increasingly seen as a strategy to level the playing field in social and economic life by giving all children, and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, a strong basis for early development and well-being (OECD, 2017[3]). Countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong share the challenge of ensuring a high quality of ECEC across centres serving different populations of children and with varying levels of resources. Promoting equity through and within the ECEC system requires a strategic distribution of the strengths of the ECEC workforce, including in terms of professional development, working conditions and leadership.

TALIS Starting Strong data provide an opportunity to investigate the extent to which staff’s education and professional development, staff’s working conditions and leadership vary with the characteristics of the children in the ECEC centre and shortages of material and human resources. This analysis allows investigating whether more challenging ECEC centres, either because they serve a more diverse population of children or because they lack material or human resources, are aided by more favourable staff training profiles and working conditions and by stronger leadership.

Results in the first volume of TALIS Starting Strong show that, in all participating countries, staff with higher educational qualifications are equally likely to work in ECEC centres where the proportion of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes is above 10% than in centres where this proportion is smaller (OECD, 2019[1]). Analyses in this volume suggest that ECEC staff training pathways are also broadly similar between centres with higher and lower proportions of children from disadvantaged homes as well as of children whose first language is different from the language used in the ECEC setting that they attend. This holds true for both staff’s completion of an initial preparation programme focused on working with children and staff’s participation in recent in-service training, and in both pre-primary centres and in centres for children under age 3, again in most participating countries. However, a positive finding is that in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Turkey, at the pre-primary level, and in Germany, for centres for children under age 3, staff levels of participation in in-service training are actually higher in ECEC centres with more diverse populations of children (Table C.2.24).

Staff training trajectories in the area of working with a diversity of children paint a similar picture. For instance, the proportion of staff covering the area of working with a diversity of children in both their pre-service education and recent in-service training is greater in centres with a higher proportion of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes than in centres with more advantaged children in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Israel at the pre-primary level, and in Denmark (with low response rates) and in Israel in centres for children under age 3. This percentage is also larger in ECEC centres where more children speak a different language at home than in more linguistically homogeneous centres in Germany, Iceland and Norway at the pre-primary level, and in Germany in centres for children under age 3 (see Figure 2.17).

Overall, evidence from TALIS Starting Strong suggests a generally good alignment between the training profiles of ECEC staff and the socio-economic and cultural/linguistic composition of the populations of children that they work with, in that greater numbers of staff trained specifically to address diversity actually work in the ECEC centres where such skills are arguably needed the most in their respective countries.

If staff’s working conditions and well-being vary across centres according to certain characteristics, like the composition of the children in the centre, then some centres will have difficulties attracting or retaining staff or delivering high-quality ECEC.

Analyses in this volume suggest that there are no systematic differences in staff’s working conditions according to the composition of the children in the centre. A couple of cases can be identified where working conditions tend to be less supportive in centres with a larger diversity of children. In Iceland, staff work longer hours and are less satisfied with their salary in centres with a larger diversity of children. In Israel (pre-primary), staff in centres with a larger diversity of children report more need for support from leaders. There are also a limited number of cases where working conditions tend to be more supportive in centres with a larger diversity of children. In Israel in centres for children under age 3 with a larger share of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, staff are more satisfied with their salary. In Turkey, staff in centres with a larger share of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes report less stress from a lack of resources.

Staff’s working conditions can also be analysed according to the availability of both material and human resources, but again, no specific patterns emerge. However, staff in centres where leaders report a lack of resources also report being stressed by the lack of resources in Chile, Germany and Israel (both levels of education), Iceland, and Korea, which illustrates how inequity in resources can be linked to staff’s well-being.

Overall, these results suggest that differences between centres in terms of the composition of children or the availability of resources are associated only to a limited extent with less favourable working conditions. These results also suggest that staff working in more challenging centres are generally not compensated with higher salaries, shorter working hours or more support from their leaders.

All ECEC centres should have the leadership required to provide a high-quality environment for children to learn and develop and thus help equalise their opportunities in life. Analyses in this volume explore whether select key leadership functions differ in relation to centres’ resources and children’s characteristics.

The resources available to centres and centre leaders are in some countries associated to leaders’ functions. For instance, in Denmark (with low response rates) and Korea at the pre-primary level, and in Germany and Israel in centres for children under age 3, leaders in centres with low levels of human resources, as perceived by leaders, spend more time on administration than leaders in centres with high levels of resources (Table C.4.44). This may mean that they have less time available to dedicate to other functions, such as their pedagogical leadership role or engagement with families and the community.

Aspects of pedagogical leadership also appear related to shortages in resources, although less consistent relationships emerge across countries than for administrative leadership. Notably, pre-primary staff in Denmark (with low response rates) and Iceland in centres with low levels of human resources are less likely to “strongly agree” with statements such as their centre leader encourages co-operation among staff to develop new ideas in their practices. In Turkey, by contrast, staff in centres with low levels of human resources are more likely to report strong agreement with statements like the centre leader ensures that staff take responsibility for improving their practice (Table C.4.45).

Similarly, engagement with parents, as reported by leaders, differs between centres with different levels of resources, again at least in some countries. In Israel (both levels of education) and Japan, centres with low levels of human resources engage informally with parents to a lesser extent than centres with high levels of human resources. In Germany (in centres for children under age 3) and Iceland, on the other hand, a shortage in material resources is related to higher levels of informal communication with parents (Table C.4.49).

In most countries, leadership functions show little variation according to the socio-economic composition of the ECEC centre. Overall, results suggest that more disadvantaged centres have similar conditions to provide a quality environment for children, at least in terms of leadership (Table C.4.46).

Equity considerations are transversal to the three pillars identified in this volume as policy levers for building a high-quality ECEC workforce, which in turn is essential to enable early childhood education and care to act as a levelling force in social and economic life. The findings above point to a common policy pointer across the three pillars:

While results from TALIS Starting Strong yield little evidence that staff training profiles, staff working conditions and leadership capacity are systematically less favourable in ECEC centres with a higher share of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes or whose first language is different from the language used in the centre, strong reasons remain for ECEC systems to make these centres a priority in efforts to attract, develop and retain a high-quality workforce.

The resources of centres and the characteristics of the children that attend them are highly visible to parents and staff. Programmes that explicitly incentivise staff and leaders with strong skills to join and remain in these centres are a way to signal a strong commitment to quality, and thus to reduce the risk that some families avoid these centres based on other considerations, in some cases accentuating segregation patterns.

At the same time, providing professional development opportunities for staff and leaders in line with the specific needs of their centres, and improving their well-being and satisfaction at work, are ways to influence process quality in ECEC settings. The richer the interactions between staff and children, and between staff and parents, the greater the chances that ECEC centres compensate for socio-economic vulnerability or for potential cultural and linguistic difficulties for integrating society.

With this view, ECEC systems may consider staffing and professional development policies that create favourable working conditions for staff and leaders in these centres, ranging from financial incentives, special training entitlements, dedicated mentoring and coaching programmes to reducing the workload so as to help ensure a focus on the children that need it the most. These and similar measures require allocating more material and human resources to ECEC centres with more vulnerable and diverse populations of children. Commitment to work in these centres could also be weighted favourably in career progression tracks.

In Germany, both at the pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3, staff working in centres with more than 10% of the children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes have almost universal levels of completion of initial preparation programmes with a focus on working with children, but coverage of training contents related to diversity in both pre-service and recent in-service training is relatively low, Both types of training could be provided more extensively to pre-primary staff in Iceland and Turkey (Table 1.2, Indicators D.1 and D.2).

In turn, Chile and Norway, at the primary level, and Israel, at both levels of education, are countries where staff training for addressing diversity responds more to the socio-economic composition of the children in the ECEC centres, which suggests attention to equity issues in staffing polices (Table 1.2, Indicator D.3).

In all countries except Norway and Turkey for pre-primary centres and Germany for centres for children under age 3, staff working in centres with more than 10% of the children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes are more likely to report a need for more support from leaders (Table 1.2, Indicator D.4). Staff working in these centres are slightly more likely to be satisfied with their salary only in Germany and Israel for both levels of education (Table 1.2, Indicator D.5). In all countries, but especially in Iceland for pre-primary and Germany for both levels of education, staff in centres with a shortage of material resources are more likely to be stressed by a lack of resources (Table 1.2, Indicator D.6).

In centres with a high concentration of socio-economically vulnerable children, staff perceptions about encouragement from leaders are most positive in Israel, at both the pre-primary level and in centres for children under age 3, while staff in Norway, also at both levels, hold the least favourable views (Table 1.2 Indicator D.7). In turn, levels of informal communication with parents or guardians in centres with the same profile are the highest in Iceland and Norway and relatively low in Korea at the pre-primary level, and in Israel at both levels (Table 1.2, Indicator D.8). Considering formal types of communication with parents or guardians, engagement is most frequent in centres with more than 10% of the children from socio-economically disadvantaged families in Chile and Israel at the pre-primary level. The level of formal communication in centres serving a higher share of socio-economically vulnerable children is particularly low in Norway at the pre-primary level (Table 1.2, Indicator D.9). Few comparisons in equity indicators are possible in Japan and Korea, given the small variation in the socio-economic composition of children in ECEC centres captured by the survey in these countries.



[5] Douglass, A. (2019), “Leadership for quality early childhood education and care”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 211, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/6e563bae-en.

[1] OECD (2019), Providing Quality Early Childhood Education and Care: Results from the Starting Strong Survey 2018, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/301005d1-en.

[6] OECD (2019), TALIS Starting Strong Database 2018, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/education/school/oecdtalisstartingstrongdata.htm.

[4] OECD (2018), Engaging Young Children: Lessons from Research about Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264085145-en.

[3] OECD (2017), Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264276253-en.

[2] Sim, M. et al. (2019), “Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 conceptual framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 197, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/106b1c42-en.

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