copy the linklink copied!3. Teachers, assistants and leaders and the quality of early childhood education and care

This chapter describes the early childhood education and care workforce, including both staff and leaders. It examines the age distribution and gender distribution of the workforce, as well as their pre-service training and opportunities for ongoing professional development. The chapter also gives a profile of the working conditions reported by staff, including their contractual status, working hours, sources of work-related stress and job satisfaction. Recognising that interactions between children and staff are crucial to the quality of early childhood settings, the chapter explores how characteristics of the workforce are associated with process quality.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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Key messages
  • Women dominate the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce. Across all countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, 95% of pre-primary education staff and 96% of staff in centres serving children under age 3 are women.

  • Staff in the ECEC field have typically completed education beyond secondary school, with Japan, Korea and Turkey having the highest rates of ECEC staff with post-secondary education. Training specifically to work with children is not universal, ranging from 64% of staff in Iceland to 97% of staff in Germany. Overall education levels mask differences within some countries between staff who work as teachers and those who work as assistants.

  • Staff with more education, particularly training specifically to work with children, and more responsibility in the target group report adapting their practices in order to facilitate children’s learning, development and well-being (meaning that they tailor their approach in the classroom or playroom to individual children’s development and interests).

  • Ongoing professional development is one of the most promising ways to promote high-quality interactions between staff and children, encourage staff to learn about pedagogical innovations and support career progression. In all countries, a majority of staff (more than 75%) report having participated in professional development activities within the 12 months prior to the Survey, with particularly strong rates of participation in Korea and Norway. The content of this ongoing training often focuses broadly on child development and staff report a strong need for specific professional development focused on working with children with special needs.

  • Online courses or seminars are an important component of professional development for pre-primary staff in several countries, including Chile, Israel, Korea and Turkey. In-person professional development activities are even more prevalent, except in Korea where these two types of training are equally common.

  • Staff who may need it the most tend to participate less in professional development activities. Staff with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher are more likely to participate in professional development than their colleagues with lower levels of pre-service education.

  • The most common barrier to participation in professional development activities across countries is a lack of staff to compensate for absences. Other barriers to professional development are more context-specific. For example, a lack of time related to family responsibilities is among the top three barriers for staff in Japan and Norway and in Israel’s sector serving children under age 3.

  • Staff in several countries report using more adaptive practices when they feel that ECEC staff are more valued by society. However, staff in all countries report feeling more valued by the children they serve and their parents or guardians than by society in general. Satisfaction with salaries is low. Even so, staff report high levels of overall job satisfaction, although staff in Japan and Korea report somewhat lower job satisfaction than staff in other countries.

  • Lack of resources is a major source of work-related stress among ECEC staff. For centre leaders, a primary source of work-related stress is having too much administrative work associated with their jobs.

  • Leaders of ECEC centres are influential in creating positive working conditions. They tend to have high levels of education and high rates of participation in professional development activities.

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

The Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) 2018 offers an international comparison of the characteristics of ECEC staff and leaders across the participating countries. Both staff and leaders were asked to provide information on themselves, their education, their work experience and the kinds of training they received in the process of becoming early childhood professionals. The Survey also covered opportunities for and barriers to ongoing professional development. TALIS Starting Strong gives staff and leaders the opportunity to provide insights into their current working conditions in terms of employment status and working hours, as well as job satisfaction and sources of work-related stress.

The ECEC workforce is at the core of the quality of ECEC. Staff and leaders can profoundly shape children’s learning, development and well-being through their everyday interactions. Preparing staff to work with children, ensuring they can adapt their knowledge and skills to new needs, and attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, are key challenges most countries face.

The goal of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive profile of staff and leaders working in the field of ECEC, both in the pre-primary education sector (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway and Turkey) and in centres serving children under age 3 (Denmark, Germany, Israel and Norway). This profile includes basic characteristics such as gender, age and education, but also participation in and need for professional development, labour market status, sources of work-related stress and job satisfaction. Recognising that interactions between children and staff are crucial to the quality of these early childhood settings and are influenced by multiple aspects of the profession, the chapter explores how staff characteristics, education and training, and working conditions are associated with staff reports of process quality. The chapter then focuses on leaders and their background and opportunities for ongoing professional development. It closes with attention to equity in the distribution of staff serving socio-economically diverse children.

copy the linklink copied!Findings from the literature on the early childhood education and care workforce and process quality

The demographic characteristics of the ECEC workforce are important for several reasons. First, a notable gender gap exists in the field, with far fewer males than females working in early childhood settings (Peeters, Rohrmann and Emilsen, 2015[1]). These gender differences are also evident among primary-school educators and also, to a lesser extent, in secondary schools (OECD, 2014[2]; OECD, 2019[3]), suggesting that the teaching profession is gendered beyond the ECEC sector. Although staff gender may not have a direct influence on children’s experiences of quality in ECEC, the gender-divided workforce can reinforce traditional views of the roles of men and women, shaping young children’s perspectives and expectations for themselves and their peers (Bauchmüller, Gørtz and Rasmussen, 2014[4]; Sumsion, 2005[5]).

Second, the age distribution of the ECEC workforce is valuable to help policy makers understand the extent to which young people are attracted to the field, as well as the proportion of the workforce that is nearing retirement. Years of experience are typically closely linked with the staff age, as older staff and leaders tend to have been in the ECEC field for longer. Findings from the early childhood literature are mixed with regard to the importance of staff work experience for enhancing quality in education and care settings (OECD, 2018[6]). However, evidence from school sector literature suggests there may be a non-linear trend between years of experience and student achievement, with each additional year of teacher experience being especially important during a teacher’s first few years in the profession (Harris and Sass, 2011[7]). Although the goals of ECEC often differ from those of later schooling, the first few years of working in ECEC may also be a time of learning the profession and mastering practices to support young children’s learning, development and well-being.

Higher pre-service education among staff is associated with higher quality of interactions between staff and children (known as process quality) in ECEC settings (Manning et al., 2017[8]; OECD, 2018[6]). The exact level of staff education required to enhance quality is unclear, as most studies find a positive correlation between educational attainment and process quality, rather than specific improvements in process quality from one level of staff education to another (e.g. vocational training compared to bachelor’s level training). However, increases in teacher training beyond secondary education (ISCED level 3) appear important for improvements in early childhood quality (Lin and Magnuson, 2018[9]). The focus and content of training for early childhood professionals likely also contributes to the quality of early education and care settings, for example whether the training focused on early childhood or specifically prepared staff to work in ECEC settings. The existing evidence in this area is inconclusive as there is a lack of systematic information on the type of pre-service training this workforce receives (Epstein et al., 2016[10]; OECD, 2018[6]).

Professional development or in-service training for ECEC staff is related to both better process quality and stronger learning and development for children (OECD, 2018[6]). Staff who participate in ongoing professional development are especially likely to provide more support for language and literacy development among children in their classroom or playroom. This may be related to a strong focus on this content area in many in-service training programmes (Markussen-Brown et al., 2017[11]). Professional development activities that use a coaching model or offer a clear feedback component as part of training are more effective in changing staff practices than programmes that lack these individualised aspects (Egert, Fukkink and Eckhardt, 2018[12]; Eurofound, 2015[13]). However, there is variability across countries and across contexts (e.g. types of early childhood settings) in the effectiveness of professional development, requiring further research to understand how investments in professional development can be most impactful for enhancing process quality (Slot, Lerkkanen and Leseman, 2015[14]).

Professional development can also help mitigate negative associations between staff stress and their interactions with young children (Sandilos et al., 2018[15]). Increasing public attention to the role of early education and care in building strong foundations for children’s futures and rising expectations of parents on the quality of services may put pressure on staff (Jennings and Greenberg, 2009[16]; OECD, 2017[17]). This pressure, coupled with the low professional status and low salaries of ECEC staff compared to other professions, can contribute to staff burnout and diminish their capacity to engage in warm and responsive interactions with children (Madill et al., 2018[18]).

Job quality is important to ensure employee well-being and can be considered to comprise three aspects: labour market security; quality of the working environment; and earnings quality (Cazes, Hijzen and Saint-Martin, 2016[19]). Earnings quality tends to be low for ECEC staff, which may be detrimental for process quality (OECD, 2018[6]). The quality of the working environment for ECEC staff is only partially reflected in the research literature. Although staff stress is negatively associated with provision of high-quality education and care, very little data exist to understand how common workplace stress is in early childhood settings, how satisfied staff are with their jobs or the number of hours staff spend at work in this field. Regarding labour market security, staff turnover rates are seen as a common challenge in the ECEC sector (OECD, 2019[20]). Yet, how staff in the ECEC sector fare in terms of labour market security, including their contractual status and likelihood of permanent employment, is not well understood.

Leaders in ECEC centres have a central role in shaping working conditions for their staff (Sim et al., 2019[21]). Leaders’ abilities to create working conditions that promote staff well-being and enhance process quality depend on the training, resources and support that leaders themselves receive. For example, leaders’ participation in ongoing mentoring is associated with increases in observed process quality in their centres (Ressler et al., 2015[22]). Yet, as with job quality in ECEC, more research is needed to better understand the characteristics and background of leaders that can best support quality and young children’s learning, development and well-being.

Data from TALIS Starting Strong offer insights on staff perceptions of their own practices in several areas of process quality (see Chapter 2 for an overview). This chapter focuses on aspects of the workforce that the literature suggests are important for process quality and that are captured in TALIS Starting Strong (Figure 3.1).

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Figure 3.1. The relationship between the workforce and process quality in TALIS Starting Strong
Figure 3.1. The relationship between the workforce and process quality in TALIS Starting Strong

copy the linklink copied!Workforce composition and pre-service training

Understanding who works in ECEC settings is a major contribution of TALIS Starting Strong. ECEC systems are diverse, serving children at a wide range of developmental stages and addressing multiple goals around child learning, development and well-being. The composition of the workforce in terms of gender, age, experience and educational background is fundamental for identifying those who are attracted to ECEC as a profession and those who are likely to stay in the field. As ECEC is a rapidly growing area for government investment, few countries have regularly updated comprehensive information on their ECEC workforce. TALIS Starting Strong provides this overview for participating countries and also enables cross-country comparisons of the characteristics of staff and leaders.

In all participating countries, the vast majority of ECEC staff are female. The Nordic countries participating in the Survey have some of the highest rates of male participation as staff in early childhood education and care, although even in these cases fewer than 15% of staff are male. In contrast, 99% of staff in Israel are female in both pre-primary education and centres for children under age 3 (Figure 3.2).

Across countries, the greatest share of staff is between age 30 and age 49. Korea and Turkey depart from other countries with a larger share of staff under age 30 and a smaller share of staff above age 50. Staff age is also reflected in the years of experience they bring to the field. A majority of staff have more than five years of experience as an ECEC staff member. Yet, variation across countries is substantial, with three times more staff in centres for children under age 3 in Israel reporting less than five years of experience in the field than their colleagues in Norway, for example (Tables D.3.1 and D.3.2).

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Figure 3.2. Characteristics of early childhood education and care staff
Staff reports of their gender, age and years of experience in early childhood education and care
Figure 3.2. Characteristics of early childhood education and care staff

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of staff under age 30.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.1 and D.3.2).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010717

Educational attainment

Providing education and care to young children requires specialised knowledge, skills and abilities. Pre-service training programmes can help future ECEC staff to develop competencies around understanding child development and how to support learning, development and well-being in early childhood. When pre-service training focuses specifically on preparing staff to create environments with rich, individualised interactions with children in their care, process quality can be enhanced in ECEC settings. Most countries have minimum requirements for staff to enter the ECEC profession. However, these requirements can vary depending on the staff role (e.g. teacher or assistant) and alternative pathways into the profession may be possible (see Box 3.1). TALIS Starting Strong provides a profile of the educational attainment of staff, including the different educational pathways that are possible for those working as teachers and those working as assistants, when relevant for particular countries.

In all participating countries, a majority of staff report having at least some post-secondary education (ISCED level 4 or above). This is important, given the benefits for ECEC quality seen among staff with education beyond secondary school (Lin and Magnuson, 2018[9]) (Figure 3.3). However, the educational profiles of staff vary quite substantially across countries. In Iceland, almost half of the ECEC workforce have not completed any post-secondary education, while in Japan a majority of staff have training at the tertiary level (ISCED level 4/5), and very few have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher (ISCED level 6 or above). In contrast, among all participating countries, Turkey has the highest percentage of ECEC staff with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher (see Annex A for further details).

Whether staff are trained specifically to work with children, which is also important for ECEC quality, is somewhat separate from their level of educational attainment. For example, in Japan, where vocational education and training programmes are most common for ECEC staff, nearly all staff are trained specifically to work with children. Germany, where staff often complete a vocationally-oriented bachelor’s equivalent (see Box 3.1), and Japan have the highest rates of staff with this type of targeted training. In Turkey, where education at the level of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher is most typical for ECEC staff, more than a quarter of staff do not have training specifically to work with children. In Iceland, where almost half the workforce is highly educated and the other half only has secondary education, a third of staff lack specific training to work with children.

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Figure 3.3. Educational attainment of staff and content of pre-service training
Staff reports of their highest level of education and whether they received training specifically to work with children
Figure 3.3. Educational attainment of staff and content of pre-service training

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Respondents in the "Below ISCED level 4" group are those whose highest education is at a secondary level or below. Respondents in the "ISCED level 4 or 5" group are those whose highest education is beyond secondary schooling but less than a bachelor's degree (or equivalent), including post-secondary non-tertiary education (generally vocationally oriented) and short-cycle tertiary education. Respondents in the "ISCED level 6 or above" group are those whose highest education is at the level of a bachelor's degree or equivalent or higher.

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of staff below ISCED level 4.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.1, D.3.2 and D.3.3).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010736

In some countries, teachers and assistants differ greatly in their educational background, according to the initial distinction in staff roles made to determine participation in TALIS Starting Strong (see Reader’s Guide). For instance, in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Israel and Norway, it is more typical for pre-primary education teachers to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher (ISCED level 6 or above) than for assistants to reach this level of educational attainment. Similarly, teachers in centres serving children under age 3 are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher than are assistants in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany and Norway (Figure 3.4).

Similarly, teachers are more likely than assistants to have training specifically to work with children in the pre-primary sector in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Israel and Norway and in centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates) and Norway. Notably, teachers and assistants in Germany (in both the pre-primary sector and centres serving children under age 3) do not differ in having this type of training and, despite differences in their educational attainment compared with teachers, a large proportion of assistants in Germany have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or above. Furthermore, in Korea, teachers and assistants do not differ in either aspect of their pre-service training.

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Figure 3.4. Educational attainment of teachers and assistants and content of pre-service training
Staff reports of their highest level of education and whether they received training specifically to work with children, by teachers and assistants1
Figure 3.4. Educational attainment of teachers and assistants and content of pre-service training

1. Teachers and assistants are distinguished based on the initial identification of staff members who were eligible to participate in TALIS Starting Strong 2018. This distinction between teachers and assistants is not used for Iceland, Japan, Turkey and Israel’s sector serving children under age 3. See the Reader’s Guide for more information.

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Respondents in the "Below ISCED level 4" group are those whose highest education is at a secondary level or below. Respondents in the "ISCED level 4 or 5" group are those whose highest education is beyond secondary schooling but less than a bachelor's degree (or equivalent), including post-secondary non-tertiary education (generally vocationally oriented) and short-cycle tertiary education. Respondents in the "ISCED level 6 or above" group are those whose highest education is at the level of a bachelor's degree or equivalent or higher.

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of teachers below ISCED level 4.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.1, D.3.2 and D.3.3).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010755

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Box 3.1. Pathways to a career in the early childhood education and care workforce

In Germany, for staff to work as teachers in ECEC settings, the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree (ISCED level 6) is typically required (OECD, 2019[23]). This training is often fulfilled through a vocationally-oriented bachelor’s equivalent focused on child pedagogy. There are also some exceptions: in some Länder, ECEC staff may work as teachers if they have completed a relevant vocational education and training programme (ISCED level 4), have worked in the field for at least two years and have completed sufficient professional development hours related to pedagogy. In TALIS Starting Strong, approximately 65% of teachers report that their highest level of education is the vocationally-oriented bachelor’s degree equivalent (ISCED level 6). In contrast, only around 4% of teachers report an academically focused bachelor’s degree in pedagogy or child pedagogy. This rate has held constant over recent years, despite a growing number of universities that offer this type of academic qualification at bachelor’s level (Oberhuemer, 2014[24]). Staff shortages in the field, as well as dissatisfaction with salaries among staff with academic bachelor’s degrees, complicate efforts to encourage greater professionalisation of the workforce through higher education (Oberhuemer and Schreyer, 2017[25]).

One effort to address ECEC staff shortages, the Skilled Labour Initiative for Attracting Talent and Retaining Professionals in ECEC, centres on paid practice-integrated vocational training/apprenticeships (OECD, 2019[26]). This approach to vocational training provides a stipend, which is not usually the case in educator training programmes, to encourage more young people to pursue a career in ECEC. Interest in the programme is strong throughout Germany, with more applicants than the programme can accommodate (BMFSFJ, 2019[27]). Starting in 2019, the Good Day Care Act allows Länder to apply for funding from the federal government to improve ECEC in up to ten areas, including support for ECEC staff training (BMFSFJ, 2019[28]).

Since 2009, Iceland has required pre-primary teachers to have training at master’s level (ISCED level 7). Furthermore, the Preschool Act of 2008 states that two-thirds of staff working with children in ECEC should be qualified teachers. Yet, teachers’ salaries do not necessarily reflect this level of educational requirement, and shortages of qualified staff contribute to municipalities appointing staff without the required training to fill roles as teachers (OECD, 2019[23]; Statistics Iceland, 2017[29]). As the demand for pre-primary education places is greater than the supply, the need for qualified staff is particularly acute (Skoglun, 2018[30]).

To address these staff shortages, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture initiated a five-year action plan for 2019-24 (Ministry of Education Iceland, 2019[31]). This action plan includes paid internships and study grants for students in their final year of teacher training to assist them to complete their education on time and encourage them to enter the teaching profession as soon as possible after graduating. Students participating in the paid internships also receive on-site mentoring from experienced teachers. The Ministry is simultaneously providing funding to major universities to offer a three-semester course for experienced teachers to prepare them to engage in this type of mentoring. Finally, the action plan includes legislation on teacher education and recruitment (effective from the start of 2020) to adopt a competence framework and introduce a teacher licence based on competence.

Note: This material was supplemented by additional inputs sent by the national authorities in Germany and Iceland, respectively.

Sources: BMFSFJ (2019[27]), Specialists' Offensive for Educators: First daycare receives a certificate from the new federal program; BMFSFJ (2019[28]), The Good KiTa Law - More quality and less fees; Ministry of Education Iceland (2019[31]), Many teachers: actions in education; Oberhuemer (2014[24]), Access and quality issues in early childhood education and care: The case of Germany; Oberhuemer and Schreyer (2017[25]), Germany – ECEC Workforce Profile; OECD (2019[23]), Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en; OECD (2019[26]), Good Practice for Good Jobs in Early Childhood Education and Care: Eight policy measures from OECD countries, https://oe.cd/pub/ecec2019; Skoglun (2018[30]), Iceland country profile 2018 Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC); Statistics Iceland (2017[29]), Fewer children and staff in pre-primary schools.

Content of pre-service training

Among pre-primary education staff who received training specifically to work with children, the content areas covered by this training are broad. Nearly all staff (both teachers and assistants) receive training on child development (e.g. socio-emotional, motor, cognitive or self-regulation). In contrast, slightly less than two-thirds of pre-primary education staff report receiving training to work with children from diverse backgrounds (e.g. multicultural, economically disadvantaged, religious) or training on facilitating children’s transitions to primary school (Figure 3.5; Tables D.3.4 and D.3.5).

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Figure 3.5. Content of pre-service training to work with children
Average percentage of pre-primary education staff who received training in each of the following content areas and practical training as part of their formal education to work with children1
Figure 3.5. Content of pre-service training to work with children

1. Data are available only for staff who received training specifically to work with children.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010774

There is substantial variability across countries on whether these areas are part of initial training for pre-primary staff. For instance, training on facilitating children’s transitions to primary school is nearly universal among staff in Turkey (90%), but only half of staff in Iceland report receiving pre-service training on this. Similarly, training in facilitating learning in science and technology is quite common in Norway (89%), but less than half of staff report this type of training in Chile, Iceland and Japan. Differences in pre-service training across countries tend to be even more pronounced among staff working in centres serving children under age 3.

Another aspect of pre-service training that may be important in preparing staff for their work with young children is practical training (i.e. hands-on experience as part of the training programme). Among staff who received training to work with children, there is considerable variation in whether practical training was also part of their training programme. Practical training is included for almost all staff in Japan, but for fewer than half of staff in Chile. Within countries that surveyed staff in both pre-primary settings and centres serving children under age 3, practical training is reported at similar rates by staff in both settings (Table D.3.3).

The relationship between process quality and staff characteristics and educational background

Many factors contribute to process quality in ECEC, as well as to the ways in which staff report on process quality. This section focuses on staff characteristics and their educational background, and their associations with two aspects of process quality when working with the target group. The first aspect of process quality examined is the adaptive practices staff use to facilitate children’s development, learning and well-being in a broad range of areas, including both socio-emotional and cognitive domains. The second aspect is staff use of behavioural support, encompassing practices to ensure children’s behaviour is supportive of learning, development and well-being in the classroom or playroom (see Chapter 2 for more details on these two aspects of process quality).

To examine the assumption that staff characteristics matter for how they report on process quality in the target group, regression analyses were conducted. Each of the two aspects of process quality is regressed on staff characteristics, while also taking into account aspects of the target group itself and aspects of the centre (see Annex C for details on the regression models and Table D.3.6). This analytic approach allows an examination of variability in process quality within countries, as well as comparisons across countries of the workforce characteristics that are associated with process quality.

In Chile and Iceland, pre-primary staff with ten years or more experience in the field of ECEC report that they more often adapt their practices in the classroom or playroom in order to meet the learning, development and well-being needs of all children, compared to staff with less experience. This is also the case among staff in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany.

Compared to pre-primary staff with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher, pre-primary staff with less education report using fewer adaptive practices in Chile, Germany and Israel. This is also the case for staff in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany. In contrast, in Turkey, pre-primary staff with less education report more frequently adapting their practices according to the needs of the children in their classroom or playroom than their peers with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher (ISCED level 6).

In addition, compared to their colleagues who do not have training specifically to work with children, staff who do have this type of training report adapting their practices more to support all children’s learning, development and well-being in pre-primary centres in Chile, Israel, Japan, Korea and Turkey, as well as in centres serving children under age 3 in Israel (Figure 3.6). As the percentage of staff who received training to work with children is relatively low in these countries (except for Japan), these results suggest that this type of training is one area that contributes to process quality in most countries. However, it is important to consider the self-reporting nature of the TALIS Starting Strong data. Staff who receive training specifically to work with children may also be more aware of the need to adapt their approaches and practices to learning, development and well-being requirements of the children in their classroom or playroom.

The role staff have in the target group is associated with their reports of the adaptive practices they use. Staff who report that they act as the leader or teacher in the target group report greater use of these adaptive practices than staff who report that they act as an assistant or in a more specialised role (e.g. working with an individual child). This is the case in pre-primary centres in Chile, Israel, Japan and Korea, as well as for centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates) and Israel.

Turning to the practices staff use to provide behavioural support in the target group, there are fewer consistent links with staff characteristics and education, compared to the findings for staff adapting their practices. Nonetheless, compared to pre-primary staff with a bachelor’s degree or higher, pre-primary staff with less education report using more behavioural supports in Germany and Iceland. In contrast, in Israel’s centres serving children under age 3, compared to staff with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher, staff with less education report using fewer behavioural supports in their target groups. Furthermore, in both Iceland and Turkey, staff who have between five and ten years of experience in ECEC report using fewer behavioural supports than staff who have ten years’ experience or more.

Together, these findings support and extend the literature on the role of staff background and training for enhancing process quality in ECEC settings. Notably, some findings reflect trends in multiple countries, while others highlight strong associations for process quality with staff characteristics and educational attainment in only a few countries. For instance, more experienced pre-primary staff in Chile, Iceland and Turkey, as well as more experienced staff in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany, report different use of practices in their target groups than their less experienced colleagues. In these countries, policies to support staff with less and more experience to work together and learn from one another may be meaningful to enhance process quality for young children. In contrast, a trend towards engaging in more practices related to process quality is seen across many countries among staff who received training specifically to work with children.

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Figure 3.6. Strength of association between staff use of adaptive practices and their training specifically to work with children
Staff reports of their use of adaptive practices, staff who received training specifically to work with children compared to staff who did not receive this training
Figure 3.6. Strength of association between staff use of adaptive practices and their training specifically to work with children

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Coefficients from the OLS regression of the indicator “Adaptive practices” on having received training to work with children. Other variables in the regression include: staff educational attainment; experience; role in the target group; working hours; contractual status; number of children in the target group (quartiles); number of staff per child in the target group (quartiles); percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in the target group; centre urban/rural location; and public/private management. See Annex C for more details on variables included in the regression model.

Statistically significant coefficients are marked in blue (see Annex C).

Countries are ranked in descending order of the unstandardised regression coefficients.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.6).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010793

It was not possible to explore the associations between process quality and staff gender due to the small number of male staff members across countries. This situation underscores the importance of countries encouraging gender equity in ECEC, particularly given staff shortages in many places (see Box 3.1).

copy the linklink copied!Workforce professional development: Needs and content, barriers and support

Continuous professional development is one of the most promising ways to enhance process quality in ECEC settings. As an integral part of the professionalisation of the ECEC workforce, understanding the needs of ECEC staff is essential to inform policies on and provision of professional development that can best support quality. Staff participating in TALIS Starting Strong reported on their participation in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the Survey, including the content and format of any such activities (e.g. attending courses, receiving coaching). Staff also reported on the areas in which they have the greatest need for further professional development, incentives to participate in professional development and barriers to their participation in ongoing training.

Participation in professional development

In all countries, a majority of staff (more than 75%) report having participated in professional development activities within the 12 months prior to the Survey. In-person attendance at a course or seminar is most typical, but participation in online courses or seminars is an important component of professional development in the pre-primary sector in several countries, including Chile, Israel, Korea and Turkey. Korea stands out with participation in in-person and online professional development activities occurring at similar rates (Table D.3.7).

Despite overall strong rates of participation in professional development, there are differences in participation related to staff background, both across and within countries. Across countries, there is variability in participation in professional development among staff with less than a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, ranging from 66% in pre-primary settings in Israel to nearly universal participation in Korea. Within countries, staff with higher levels of pre-service education (equivalent to ISCED level 6 or above) are more likely to report participation in professional development activities in the previous year than their colleagues with lower pre-service educational attainment in most countries (Figure 3.7). Thus, as in other sectors, staff who may have the greatest need for in-service training to complement their pre-service training are the least likely to access ongoing professional development (OECD, 2013[32]). This situation may be related to staff preferences (for example, more educated staff may enjoy engaging in ongoing training) or to contractual and role differences within centres (for example, staff with more education may have more responsibilities and requirements for ongoing training). In either case, policies can support more balanced access to ongoing professional development by requiring participation from staff at all levels, as well as by supporting this participation in equitable ways.

Professional development needs

Across countries, with the exception of Korea, staff report a high level of need for professional development on working with children with special needs. Notably, this finding mirrors results for the professional development needs reported by lower secondary teachers, suggesting a growing awareness across levels of the education system of the importance of this topic (OECD, 2019[3]).

Working with dual/second language learners is another area where staff in multiple countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong report a strong need for ongoing training. Other common areas of need for professional development include: working with children from diverse backgrounds (e.g. multicultural, economically disadvantaged or religious); working with parents or guardians/families; general child development (e.g. socio-emotional, motor, cognitive or self-regulation); and facilitating creativity and problem solving (Table 3.1).

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Figure 3.7. Participation in professional development activities by pre-service educational attainment
Staff reports of participation in professional development for those who have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher (ISCED level 6 or above) compared to staff with lower educational attainment
Figure 3.7. Participation in professional development activities by pre-service educational attainment

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Statistically significant differences are marked in blue (see Annex C).

Results for Korea are not displayed, due to the small number of staff who did not participate in any professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of staff with educational attainment below a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (ISCED level 6) who participated in professional development in the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010812

In a few places (pre-primary settings in Denmark [with low response rates], Germany and Korea, and centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark [with low response rates], Germany and Norway), staff who report working with a larger proportion of children with special needs (i.e. 11% or more children in the target group) report a greater need for professional development in this area. However, in other places, there is no association between the proportion of children with special needs in the target group and staff interest in this topic for ongoing training (Table D.3.10). This finding suggests that staff may notice a need for additional training even when working with a small number of children with special needs or as preparation for the possibility of serving children with special needs throughout their careers.

In several countries, staff who report working with more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre (i.e. 11% or more children in the target group whose first language is different from the language(s) used at the ECEC centre) also report a greater need for professional development on working with dual/second language learners. This is the case for staff in pre-primary settings in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan and Norway, as well as for staff in centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany and Norway. The percentage of staff working with groups with 11% or more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre is particularly high in Germany, Iceland and Norway (Chapter 2, Figure 2.18). Notably, in a few countries, reported needs for professional development are also higher in additional areas (e.g. working with parents, working with children from diverse backgrounds) among staff working with more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre than among staff working with fewer such children (Table D.3.10).

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Table 3.1. Top three professional development needs
Professional development content categories where staff most often reported a “high level of need,” among 16 options1

 

Child-development

Facilitating

play 

Facilitating creativity and problem

solving

Facilitating learning in

literacy and spoken

language

Facilitating children’s transition from ECEC to primary

school

Working with parents or guardians/ families

Working with children with special needs

Group management

Working with children from diverse backgrounds

Working with dual/second language learners

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

3

1

2

Germany

3

1

2

Iceland

1

3

2

Israel

3

2

1

Japan

3

2

1

Korea

3

1

2

Norway

1

3

2

Turkey3

3

1

2

Denmark*

2

1

3

Centres for children under age 3

Germany

3

2

1

Israel

2

3

1

Norway

1

3

2

Denmark*

1

3

2

1. Content categories that were not ranked among the top three professional development needs in any country are not shown. These categories include: Child health or personal care (e.g. hygiene); Facilitating learning in literacy and spoken language; Facilitating learning in science and technology; Facilitating learning in arts; Learning theories (e.g. socio-cultural, behavioural, cognitive, constructivist); and Facilitating children’s transitions from ISCED level 01 to ISCED level 02 (asked only of staff in centres serving children under age 3).

2. Only pre-primary education (ISCED level 02) staff were asked about facilitating children’s transition from ECEC to primary school.

3. In Turkey only 15 options were presented. Staff were not asked about their need for professional development related to working with dual/second language learners.

* Low response rates in the survey may result in bias in the estimates reported and limit comparability of the data.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.8 and D.3.9).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010831

Content of professional development and alignment with needs

The content of professional development staff received in the 12 months prior to the Survey is only partially aligned with their reported needs. For example, in contrast to the strong reported need for ongoing training to work with children with special needs, only in Japan is this content area among the top three covered in recent professional development activities (Table 3.2). Instead, child development (e.g. socio-emotional, motor, cognitive or self-regulation) and facilitating play are among the most commonly covered content areas in staff professional development activities. Staff in several countries report an ongoing need for training on child development, regardless of their participation in professional development on this topic. This suggests that staff are interested in continuing to develop their knowledge and skills in this foundational area.

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Table 3.2. Top three content areas covered by professional development in the past year
Staff report of content covered in professional development activities, among 16 options1

Child development

Facilitating

play 

Facilitating creativity and problem

solving

Facilitating learning in

literacy and spoken

language

Working with parents or guardians/ families

Working with children with special needs

Monitoring/

documenting

child development, well-being and learning

Child health

or personal

care (e.g. hygiene)

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

1

2

3

Germany

1

2

3

Iceland

2

3

1

Israel

1

3

2

Japan

1

2

3

Korea

2

3

1

Norway

1

2

3

Turkey2

1

2

3

Denmark*

1

2

3

Centres for children under age 3

Germany

1

2

3

Israel

1

2

3

Norway

1

3

2

Denmark*

1

2

3

1. Content categories that were not ranked among top three content areas covered by professional development in the past year in any country are not shown. These categories include: Facilitating learning in mathematics/numeracy; Facilitating learning in science and technology; Facilitating learning in arts; Facilitating children transitions from ISCED level 01 to ISCED level 02 (asked only of staff in centres for children under age 3); Facilitating children’s transition from ECEC to primary school (asked only of staff in pre-primary education [ISCED level 02]); Learning theories (e.g. socio-cultural, behavioural, cognitive, constructivist); Classroom/playgroup/group management; Working with children from diverse backgrounds (e.g. multicultural, economically disadvantaged, religious); and Working with dual/second language learners.

2. In Turkey only 15 options were presented. Staff were not asked about their participation in professional development related to working with dual/second language learners.

* Low response rates in the survey may result in bias in the estimates reported and limit comparability of the data.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.11 and D.3.12).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010850

Receiving ongoing training in a particular area may stimulate staff interest in continuing to receive related professional development opportunities. As a result, a reported need for professional development may not be the same as a lack of access to specific training opportunities. This idea is consistent with the broad participation in and ongoing need for training in child development. Similarly, findings from lower secondary teachers over a five-year period show increases in both the reported need for professional development on teaching students with special needs and the participation in training on this topic (OECD, 2019[3]). Thus, participation in professional development on a particular topic may be well aligned with staff needs, even if the reported need continues to be high. Even so, countries and professional development providers can be attentive to the needs reported by ECEC staff in order to ensure that relevant professional development opportunities are available to meet staff needs. For ECEC staff, increased provision of training opportunities on working with children with special needs must be considered.

With the exception of professional development activities focused on facilitating learning in literacy and oral language, other traditional academic areas are not among the top three content areas where staff report ongoing training. Therefore, it is not surprising that staff report engaging in more activities related to supporting children’s learning and development in the areas of language and literacy than activities related to mathematics/numeracy and that they also place a lower value on developing children’s skills or abilities in math, science and technology (see Chapter 2).

Barriers to and support for participation in professional development

The most prevalent barrier to participation in professional development for staff in both pre-primary education and in centres for children under age 3 is a lack of staff to compensate for absences. This is the number one barrier to participation in professional development in all countries and populations, except for Chile. In Chile, staff report that their top barrier is that professional development activities are too expensive, which is also a common barrier in other participating countries. Among pre-primary education staff, conflicts with work schedules are also among the top barriers to participation in ongoing professional development. Other common barriers across countries include professional development activities conflicting with work schedules and a lack of incentives for participation in such activities (Figure 3.8; Table D.3.13).

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Figure 3.8. Barriers to participation in professional development
Average percentage of pre-primary education staff across countries who agree that the following are barriers to their participation in professional development
Figure 3.8. Barriers to participation in professional development

Note: Response options are ranked in descending order of the percentage of staff who reported they “strongly agree” or “agree” that each is a barrier to their participation in professional development.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010869

Lower secondary teachers report that the top three barriers to their participation in professional development activities are conflicts with their work schedules, a lack of incentives for ongoing professional development and the cost of such activities (OECD, 2019[3]). These teachers were not asked about the availability of other staff to compensate for their absences during participation in professional development, but otherwise the parallels between the barriers to participation in professional development for lower secondary teachers and ECEC staff are striking. The similarity of responses from ECEC staff and lower secondary education teachers suggests that education systems as a whole can better address barriers to support staff and teachers to engage in continuous professional development, for instance by granting release time from their work with children or students. However, the ECEC sector faces the challenge of addressing staff shortages in order to facilitate greater time for staff participation in professional development. This will require encouraging new staff to join the sector, as well as supporting ongoing learning among existing staff (see Box 3.1).

Additional barriers to participation in professional development tend to be more country-specific. For example, a lack of time related to family responsibilities is among the top three barriers for staff in pre-primary education in Japan and Norway and in centres serving children under age 3 in Israel and Norway. A lack of relevant professional development opportunities is among the top three barriers for staff in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany (Table D.3.13). However, in Germany, staff report fewer barriers to professional development overall, compared to other countries (Table D.3.14).

Providing adequate support for participation in professional development activities can help reduce the barriers staff face and also influence the type of professional development activities in which staff engage. Among staff who participated in some form of professional development in the 12 months prior to the Survey, TALIS Starting Strong asked about the types of support they had received. Release from working with children for activities during regular working hours is the most common support received across countries, although less than half of staff who participated in professional development in the past year benefitted from this. Direct support for participation in the professional development activity, such as providing the materials needed for the activities or payment of the costs of participation, are the next most common types of support, with less direct types of support (e.g. professional benefits or non-monetary rewards) being less common (Figure 3.9). Staff in centres serving children under age 3 report support for participation in professional development similar to that of their pre-primary colleagues, with the exception of Israel. In Israel, staff in centres serving children under age 3 generally report more support for their participation in professional development activities than staff in pre-primary settings, particularly around receiving materials needed for the activities and monetary supplements for activities outside working hours (Table D.3.15).

Consistent with the lower barriers to participation in professional development reported by staff in Germany, nearly all staff in Germany who participated in professional development in the 12 months prior to the Survey also report receiving some form of support for this. In contrast, 43% of staff in Turkey who participated in a professional development activity report that they received no support to do so. The specific types of support that staff receive also vary somewhat across countries. For instance, staff in Germany and Japan are more likely to report receiving release from working with children during regular working hours and reimbursement or payment of costs associated with the activity than staff in other countries. Although monetary incentives are less common overall, staff in Korea and Israel are the most likely to report receiving a salary increase related to their participation in professional development activities (Table D.3.15).

Receiving release time from working with children for professional development activities during regular working hours is particularly important for increasing the likelihood that staff will participate in the most common type of professional development, attending an in-person course or seminar. Beyond this, participation in different types of professional development is associated with some differences in the types of support received. Tailoring support to specific types of professional development is important for promoting participation in activities that have clear evidence of enhancing process quality, such as coaching with an external person. The types of support that are useful for this type of professional development may be very different from those that can encourage staff to further their education by participating in a qualification programme. TALIS Starting Strong data show that staff participating in coaching with an external person report receiving more non-monetary rewards (e.g. resources, materials, book vouchers or software/apps for their classrooms or playroom) than staff who do not participate in coaching. Among staff participating in a qualification programme (e.g. a degree programme), support in the form of increased salary is most common (Figure 3.10).

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Figure 3.9. Support for participation in professional development
Average percentage of pre-primary staff across countries who participated in professional development in the previous year and received each of the following types of support
Figure 3.9. Support for participation in professional development

Note: Results are based on reports from staff who participated in at least one professional development activity in the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010888

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Figure 3.10. Participation in professional development activities by support received
Average differences in pre-primary education staff reports of their participation in three types of professional development by whether or not each of the following types of support for participation in professional development were available
Figure 3.10. Participation in professional development activities by support received

Notes: Results are based on reports from staff who participated in at least one professional development activity in the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Support types are ranked in descending order of the difference in participation in a course or seminar.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010907

copy the linklink copied!Working conditions for early childhood education and care staff

The OECD Job Quality Framework (Cazes, Hijzen and Saint-Martin, 2016[19]) is a useful tool for understanding the major dimensions of job quality in the ECEC sector. The Framework identifies three objective, measurable dimensions of job quality: labour market security; quality of the working environment; and earnings quality. Together, these dimensions inform labour market participation and performance within a given sector. For the field of ECEC, the stability of the labour force and the commitment and ability of staff to provide children with high-quality environments are critical. Thus, it is also critical to understand staff perceptions of job quality. TALIS Starting Strong offers ECEC staff an opportunity to share their perspectives on job satisfaction and sources of work-related stress. These reports can be understood in the context of staff employment characteristics (i.e. contractual status and working hours), as well as in relation to process quality.

Labour market security: Contractual status and working hours

TALIS Starting Strong data show that ECEC staff working hours are variable across countries, with part-time positions being most common in Denmark (with low response rates) and Germany and in centres in Israel serving children under age 3, and least common in Korea. A majority of ECEC staff in all countries have permanent contracts, with the exception of Korea, where fixed-term contracts are most common (Figure 3.11).

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Figure 3.11. Staff contractual status and working hours
Percentage of staff with permanent contracts and full-time working hours
Figure 3.11. Staff contractual status and working hours

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups in the TALIS Starting Strong 2018 data need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of full-time staff.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Tables D.3.1 and D.3.2).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010926

In several countries (Chile, Denmark [with low response rates], Germany, Iceland, Israel and Turkey), ECEC staff have somewhat lower rates of full-time employment both compared to the overall labour force and compared to women specifically. The comparison to women in the overall workforce is meaningful, given that the vast majority of ECEC staff are women (Figure 3.12). Part-time working hours may represent some degree of preference among ECEC staff, particularly if they are seeking to balance family demands with work (OECD, 2019[33]). However, the TALIS Starting Strong data cannot disentangle staff preferences for part-time or full-time working hours from the availability of these different schedules and a centre’s expectations or requirements of its staff.

In some countries (Iceland, Korea and Turkey), ECEC staff have somewhat lower rates of permanent employment than the overall labour force. Lower labour market security can make it difficult to attract new staff or retain existing staff. Moreover, for workers who do not have permanent contracts, well-being can be compromised (Cazes, Hijzen and Saint-Martin, 2016[19]), and these employees may also have access to fewer opportunities for job advancement, such as through professional development.

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Figure 3.12. Labour force contractual status and working hours
Percentage of the overall labour force with permanent contracts and full-time working hours (2018)
Figure 3.12. Labour force contractual status and working hours

Notes: Data on the percentage of permanent contracts for the overall labour force is not available for Israel or Japan.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of full-time workers.

Source: OECD (2019[34]), OECD Labour Force Statistics (database), https://stats.oecd.org (accessed on 11 July 2019).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010945

In several countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, staff who have fixed-term contracts are less likely to have participated in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the Survey than their colleagues who have permanent contracts (Table D.3.16). This is the case in the pre-primary sector in Germany, Iceland, Israel and Japan and the sector for children under age 3 in Germany (Figure 3.13, unadjusted coefficients). However, when staff and centre characteristics are accounted for, particularly staff education and pre-service training, only in Japan’s pre-primary sector and in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany are staff with fixed-term contracts less likely to participate in professional development than their colleagues with permanent contracts (Figure 3.13, adjusted coefficients). This pattern of findings suggests that in these countries and sectors, the type of contract staff members receive (i.e. permanent or fixed term) may determine their opportunities for ongoing professional development in addition to other staff characteristics (e.g. pre-service educational attainment). In these places, staff with fixed-term contracts would benefit from targetted opportunities to engage in professional development.

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Figure 3.13. Strength of association between participation in professional development and contractual status
Staff reports of their participation in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the Survey for staff who have a permanent contract versus those who do not
Figure 3.13. Strength of association between participation in professional development and contractual status

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Results for Korea are not displayed, due to the small number of staff who did not participate in any professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Coefficients from the logistic regression of the indicator “Participation in professional development” on having a permanent contract. The results from this bivariate model are displayed as the unadjusted coefficients. Other variables in the regression for the adjusted coefficients include: staff educational attainment; training to work with children; experience; role in the target group; working hours; number of children in the target group (quartiles); number of staff per child in the target group (quartiles); percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in the target group; centre urban/rural location; and public/private management. See Annex C for more details on variables included in the regression model.

Statistically significant coefficients are marked in blue/black (see Annex C).

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the unstandardised, unadjusted regression coefficients.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.16).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010964

Quality of the working environment: Sources of work-related stress and job satisfaction

Among sources of work-related stress that staff rate as causing them “a lot” of stress, a lack of resources is among the top three across all countries, for both pre-primary education and centres serving children under age 3. Another common source of work-related stress across countries is having too many children in the classroom/playroom. Other sources of work-related stress vary across countries. For example, staff in Iceland report comparatively little stress related to documenting children’s development, and staff in Korea report comparatively high stress from having too much administrative work (Table D.3.17). Staff generally do not perceive their workload related to preparing for activities with children or being held responsible for children’s development as key sources of work-related stress (Figure 3.14).

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Figure 3.14. Staff sources of work-related stress
Average percentage of pre-primary education staff who report that the following are a source of stress in their work
Figure 3.14. Staff sources of work-related stress

Note: Response options are ranked in descending order of the percentage of staff who rated them as “a lot” or “quite a bit” a source of stress.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010983

With regard to job satisfaction, a majority of staff in all countries report feeling valued by the children and parents or guardians they serve. However, in all countries, staff reports of feeling valued by society are much lower (Figure 3.15). Feeling valued by specific children or parents may be more concrete for ECEC staff than feeling valued by society in general, and therefore their responses to these items may not be directly comparable. Yet, the generally high levels of job satisfaction, including the fact that most staff “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “All in all, I am satisfied with my job” (Table D.3.18), are in contrast to the views reported for feeling valued by society. Furthermore, ECEC staff tend to agree more that they are valued in society than primary school teachers. On average across six countries, only 35% of primary teachers agreed that the teaching profession is valued by society (OECD, 2014[2]).

The most common reason staff give for why they would leave their job is retirement (Figure 3.16). This is the also the case for staff in centres serving children under age 3. However, there is considerable cross-country variability in staff reasons for leaving their job. For instance, in Japan the most typical reason why staff might leave their job is to attend to family responsibilities. In Germany and Korea, it is more common for staff to anticipate that they would leave their job to resolve health-related issues (e.g. physical and/or psychological burnout). In contrast, nearly a quarter of staff in Iceland report that they are likely to leave their job in ECEC to take a job in another sector (Table D.3.19).

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Figure 3.15. Staff feelings of being valued by children, families and society
Average percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” with each of the following statements
Figure 3.15. Staff feelings of being valued by children, families and society

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Staff in centres serving children under age 3 were not asked the extent to which they feel valued by the children they serve.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of staff agreeing that ECEC staff are valued in society.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.18).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011002

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Figure 3.16. Most likely reasons to leave the ECEC staff role
Average pre-primary education staff reports across countries of the single most likely reason to leave their job as ECEC staff and minimum and maximum percentages observed across countries
Figure 3.16. Most likely reasons to leave the ECEC staff role

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.19).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011021

Earnings quality

Staff perceptions of being valued by society are likely shaped, at least in part, by the salaries they receive. In all countries, fewer than two in five staff members report being satisfied with their salary (Table D.3.18). Across OECD countries, pre-primary education teachers earn only 78% of the salaries of full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education (ISCED levels 5 to 8) in other fields (OECD, 2019[23]). Given the diversity of educational backgrounds among ECEC staff, as well as the number of ECEC staff who do not work full-time, some salary differences may be due to characteristics of the workforce and their labour contracts. However, teachers in primary and secondary education also tend to earn less than workers in other fields with comparable levels of education. Given that teachers’ salaries tend to increase as they work in progressively higher levels of the education system and that teachers in lower secondary settings view improving salaries as a priority (OECD, 2019[3]), it is not surprising that ECEC staff are not satisfied with their salaries.

Salary progression can help retain workers. If ECEC staff have opportunities to improve their earnings over the course of their careers in the field, it may encourage them to continue working in this area. In contrast, when pay scales are compressed, staff may consider whether changing jobs for another field offers better earnings potential. However, smaller differences in salaries among staff may contribute to stronger collegiality among co-workers, enhancing the quality of relationships in ECEC settings. Across countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong with available data on salary progressions, several countries have compressed wage scales for pre-primary education staff (Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Turkey), while other countries show more opportunities for salary growth across a career in pre-primary education (Chile, Israel and Korea) (Figure 3.17).

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Figure 3.17. Pre-primary staff statutory salaries at different points in staff careers (2018)
Annual statutory salaries of staff in public institutions based on the most prevalent qualifications at different points in staff careers, in equivalent USD converted using purchasing power parity
Figure 3.17. Pre-primary staff statutory salaries at different points in staff careers (2018)

Note: Data are not available for Germany and Japan.

Source: OECD (2019[23]), Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011040

copy the linklink copied!The relationship between process quality, professional development and working conditions

This section investigates the relationship between process quality and professional development, contractual status, and working hours and working conditions. It explores the associations between these variables and the aspects of process quality that staff report when working with the target group, while also accounting for aspects of the target group itself and aspects of the centre (see Annex C for details on the regression models and Table D.3.20). The importance of continuous professional development for supporting process quality is well-documented in the research literature, and to some extent this is also the case for the importance of supporting teacher well-being. TALIS Starting Strong contributes an international perspective to understanding these associations and also brings valuable information on how ECEC labour markets support process quality.

Participation in professional development

Staff who participated in professional development during the year prior to the Survey generally report more use of adaptive practices in the target group. The exact type of professional development linked to staff adapting their practices varies across countries. Participation in in-person courses or seminars is linked to staff using more adaptive practices in pre-primary settings in Chile and Iceland and in centres serving children under age 3 in Germany and Israel. Consistent with the existing research on the value of coaching, this type of professional development is associated with greater use of adaptive practices in pre-primary settings in Israel and Korea and in centres serving children under age 3 in Norway. In addition, on-site coaching by an external person is associated with greater staff use of behavioural support practices in the target group in pre-primary settings in Iceland and in centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates) and Norway. Finally, participation in a qualification programme is associated with greater use of adaptive practices in Israel’s pre-primary sector (Table D.3.20).

Overall the findings suggest that participation in professional development activities can support staff in adapting their practices in the classroom or playroom, but that these associations are not uniform either across or within countries. Some reasons for these differences may be related to the specific content and goals of the training, the availability of and participation in other types of professional development activities, as well as the frequency and duration of participation in professional development. Moreover, the TALIS Starting Strong data are cross-sectional and cannot determine whether staff who participate in professional development activities are more likely to report greater use of adaptive practices, or whether staff who engage in more of these practices are simply more likely to participate in ongoing professional development.

Contractual status and working hours

In the pre-primary sector, staff who work full-time report using more adaptive practices to support the learning, development and well-being of children in the target group than staff who work part-time in many countries, including Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan and Korea (Figure 3.18). Similarly, in the pre-primary sectors in Germany and Israel, staff who work full-time report using more behavioural support practices in the target group than their colleagues who work part-time. One potential explanation for these findings is that full-time staff have more time to engage in these behaviours than staff who work only part-time. Staff contractual status is not consistently associated with reports of either adaptive practices or behavioural support practices in the target group. These associations are not observed in centres serving children under age 3 (Table D.3.20).

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Figure 3.18. Strength of association between use of adaptive practices and working hours
Staff reports of their use of adaptive practices for staff who work full-time compared to staff who work part-time
Figure 3.18. Strength of association between use of adaptive practices and working hours

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups in the TALIS Starting Strong 2018 data need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Coefficients from the OLS regression of the indicator “Adaptive practices” on working full-time hours. Other variables in the regression for the adjusted coefficients include: staff educational attainment; training to work with children; experience; role in the target group; contractual status; number of children in the target group (quartiles); number of staff per child in the target group (quartiles); percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in the target group; centre urban/rural location; and public/private management. See Annex C for more details on variables included in the regression model.

Statistically significant coefficients are marked in blue (see Annex C).

Countries are ranked in descending order of the unstandardised regression coefficients.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.20).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011059

Sources of work-related stress and job satisfaction

Consistent with theory and the limited body of past research, staff well-being appears to matter for their use of specific practices with children. Staff in several countries report using more adaptive practices when they feel that ECEC staff are more valued by society. These countries include the pre-primary sector in Chile, Germany, Japan and Korea and the sector serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates), Israel and Norway (Table D.3.20).

In pre-primary settings in Iceland and Israel, staff who report more stress from having too many children in the classroom or playroom report using fewer adaptive practices, holding the size of their target groups equal. This finding may reflect that staff limit the amount they engage in more individualised practices when they feel more stressed by the number of children they are working with, regardless of the size of their target groups in comparison to their colleagues.

Staff who report more stress from having too many children in the classroom or playroom also report using more behavioural support practices, again holding the size of their target groups equal. This is the case in pre-primary settings in Germany, Japan, Korea and Turkey, and in centres serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates). Staff who feel more stressed by the size of their groups may feel the need to provide more targeted support for children’s behavioural self-regulation (e.g. asking children to quieten down when activities begin) in order to address the learning and developmental needs of all the children in the group.

Across all countries and levels of ECEC with the exception of pre-primary staff in Norway, staff report more stress from having too many children in the classroom or playroom when they are working in target groups with more children (Table D.3.21). Yet, this additional stress does not translate into different practices among staff in all countries, after accounting for staff characteristics and other aspects of the target group and centre (Table D.3.20). ECEC systems can consider ways to identify and manage stress among staff members to ensure high quality for all children, and particularly in those countries where staff stress is associated with their practices in the target group (i.e. pre-primary settings in Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea and Turkey and settings serving children under age 3 in Denmark [with low response rates]). ECEC leaders can have a central role in supporting their staff and reducing overall work-related stress.

copy the linklink copied!Leaders in early childhood education and care centres

Leaders in ECEC centres are influential in creating positive working conditions and supporting staff to engage in continuous professional development activities. Moreover, leaders’ educational background is associated with children’s learning, development and well-being (Melhuish et al., 2006[35]). Leaders in the early childhood field are often required to take on many roles in their centres, from providing pedagogical and administrative leadership to fulfilling responsibilities for staff who are on leave or attending professional development activities. In some centres, leaders also engage in regular pedagogical work with children, adding to their many responsibilities and requiring careful balancing of their time.

Leaders with multiple roles (i.e. those who are also directly working with children, like other staff members) represent approximately 28% of the leaders in TALIS Starting Strong. As such, they are represented in the data from both staff reports and leader reports (see the Reader’s Guide for more information). This section focuses on data from leader reports, describing the demographic and educational background of leaders in the ECEC sector, as well as their opportunities for professional development and their perceptions of the quality of their work environment.

Leaders’ characteristics, education and professional development

Across countries, the gender distribution among ECEC leaders varies slightly more than among ECEC staff. Consistent with the low representation of males among staff, in Israel 99% of leaders are female, and the percentage of female leaders is also high in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Iceland, Korea, and Norway. For example, leaders in Israel have staff duties and work directly with children. In contrast, leaders in Turkey are generally not former teachers and are sometimes also primary school leaders, as ECEC centres are often co-located with primary schools (see Chapter 4), and they typically do not have a pedagogical role in their centres. The gender imbalance between staff and leaders in Turkey is a trend seen in other countries at other levels of education: women tend to dominate the teaching workforce while men more often hold leadership roles (i.e. as principals). Yet, women are still more likely to hold leadership roles in ECEC than in other levels of education (OECD, 2019[3]). In countries with strong representation of men in ECEC leadership roles (Chile, Japan and Turkey), greater attention is needed to counter perceptions of caring for young children as women’s work, but leadership as men’s work.

In most countries, a majority of leaders are age 50 or older, with the greatest share of leaders in this age group in Japan and the fewest in Israel’s pre-primary sector. The majority of leaders have extensive experience (ten years or more) in the field of ECEC, except in Turkey where slightly less than half of leaders report this level of experience (Table D.3.22). Experience specifically as leaders is somewhat more variable, with the average ranging from approximately 5 years in Turkey to over 15 years in centres serving children under age 3 in Norway (Figure 3.19).

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Figure 3.19. Leaders’ characteristics
Leaders’ reports of their gender, age and years of experience as leaders in early childhood education and care
Figure 3.19. Leaders’ characteristics

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of leaders age 50 or older.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.22).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011078

Leaders in ECEC settings tend to have formal education at the level of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or above. Exceptions to this include Japan and Israel’s sector serving children under age 3, where a substantial minority of leaders report that their highest education level is post-secondary schooling, but less than a bachelor’s degree (i.e. ISCED level 4 or 5) (Table D.3.22). In some instances, this may reflect that staff who take on leadership roles seek additional education to support them in their new responsibilities.

Training for leaders focused on early childhood is common across all countries, although it is not universal. In Chile and Turkey, only slightly more than half of leaders have training focused on early childhood, while in Norway’s pre-primary education sector more than nine in ten leaders have this type of training. Training in pedagogical leadership is also fairly common across countries, while training in administration is least consistently reported by leaders of early childhood education and care centres, except in Korea and Turkey, where training in administration is the most common of the three types. In Germany, fewer than half of leaders report training in either pedagogical leadership or administration (Figure 3.20).

Nearly all leaders participated in some form of professional development in the 12 months prior to the Survey. In most countries, at least three-quarters of leaders participated in a professional development course or an in-person seminar. Exceptions to this are Germany and Japan, where participation in such courses is somewhat lower and it is more common for leaders to attend conferences where ECEC staff, leaders or researchers present their research (Table D.3.24).

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Figure 3.20. Elements included in leaders’ formal education
Percentage of leaders who report the following topics were included in their formal education or training
Figure 3.20. Elements included in leaders’ formal education

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: In Israel, leaders were not asked whether their education or training programme focused on early childhood.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of leaders whose training/education programme or course focused on early childhood.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.23).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011097

Quality of the working environment for leaders

Across countries, leaders are most likely to report that having too much administrative work is a source of work-related stress. High rates of work-related stress are also reported around changing requirements from authorities, a lack of resources (e.g. financial support and material resources) and a lack of staff to carry out work (Figure 3.21). In addition to these overall patterns, variation exists between countries. For example, leaders in Germany report that having extra duties due to absent staff is an important source of stress, while leaders in Japan report less stress in this area. Even within countries, sources of work-related stress can vary considerably. In Israel, too much administrative work is a greater source of stress in the pre-primary sector than in centres serving children under age 3 (Table D.3.25). (See Chapter 5 for further details on country-specific sources of work-related stress among leaders.)

Among leaders, a similar pattern to that seen among staff emerges with regard to feeling valued by society relative to satisfaction with support from the staff with whom they work and parents or guardians (Figure 3.22). Leaders are generally satisfied with the support they receive from staff at their centres and with the support received by parents or guardians. However, fewer leaders “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECEC staff are valued in society. Leaders’ feelings of ECEC staff being valued by society tend to be similar or more positive than those of staff, with the exception of Germany (both pre-primary settings and centres serving children under age 3) and Israel’s centres for children under age 3, where staff views are somewhat more favourable. As with staff, satisfaction with salaries also tends to be low among leaders, but overall satisfaction with their jobs is high even so (Table D.3.26).

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Figure 3.21. Sources of work-related stress for early childhood education and care leaders
Average percentages of pre-primary education leaders who report that the following are a source of stress in their work
Figure 3.21. Sources of work-related stress for early childhood education and care leaders

1. This question was not administered in Israel.

Note: Response options are ranked in descending order of the percentage of leaders who rated them as “a lot” or “quite a bit” a source of stress.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011116

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Figure 3.22. Leaders’ job satisfaction
Percentage of leaders who “agree” or “strongly agree” with the following statements
Figure 3.22. Leaders’ job satisfaction

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of leaders agreeing that ECEC staff are valued in society.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Database (Table D.3.26).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934011135

copy the linklink copied!Equity focus: Staff in target groups

In the schooling sector, teachers with lower qualifications often teach in schools that serve more disadvantaged students (OECD, 2014[36]). Despite numerous differences in staff qualifications and funding and governance of ECEC compared to the schooling sector (see Chapter 5), sources of social inequality present in schooling systems may also affect ECEC systems. Inequalities at the centre level are explored in Chapter 4 and are examined here at the level of the target group. Regression analysis is used to examine multiple characteristics of staff and target groups simultaneously, to better understand the distribution of the ECEC workforce across target groups with 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes compared to target groups with a lower proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged children (Table D.3.27). This approach is particularly useful for understanding factors that may contribute to inequities among children within countries.

Pre-primary staff in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Turkey, as well those in centres in Norway serving children under age 3, are more likely to have higher education attainment when working in target groups with 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, than their colleagues working in groups with a lower proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged children. However, staff in Turkey and those in centres in Israel serving children under age 3 tend to have less experience (fewer than ten years) when working in groups with a higher proportion of disadvantaged children.

In several countries, including pre-primary settings in Iceland, Israel, Japan and Korea and settings serving younger children in Denmark (with low response rates) and Germany, the number of staff per child in the target group is higher in groups comprised of 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes than in groups with a lower proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged children. The number of staff per child in the target group refers to the total number of staff working with the group, regardless of their role, divided by the total number of children in the target group. The finding suggests that children in target groups with more socio-economically disadvantaged children may be exposed to more adults during their time in the group. Such situations could be supportive of children’s learning and development if they lead to higher-quality interactions between staff and children or if the staff members have different roles (e.g. provide music lessons or other specialised programming) and the transitions between staff members are organised and expected. But exposure to a greater number of adults could also suggest that children’s opportunities to build strong relationships with individual staff members are more limited than in groups with fewer adults.

copy the linklink copied!Conclusion and policy implications

This chapter presents findings from TALIS Starting Strong on backgrounds, educational attainment, ongoing professional development and working conditions for staff and leaders. It examines the ways in which staff characteristics are associated with their use of specific practices in the target group, as well as how staff resources are distributed across groups of children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

The training experiences of staff within and across countries are mixed, related to both pre-service qualifications and ongoing professional development. Pre-service training is associated with staff support for process quality in their target groups, as well as their likelihood of participation in professional development activities. Therefore, ensuring access to targeted and ongoing training opportunities for all staff is a key area where policy can enhance process quality in ECEC settings.

Policy approaches can include:

  1. 1. Supporting staff participation in training programmes focused on working with young children: Staff with training specifically to work with children adapt their practices as needed, meaning they tailor their approach in the classroom or playroom to individual children’s development and interests. Policies can encourage pre-service training programmes to provide this specialised training in order to increase the supply of ECEC staff who are prepared to address children’s individual needs and interests. For example, Turkey has a highly educated ECEC workforce with room to improve the specialised expertise of ECEC staff by providing more training specifically on working with young children.

    Given the multiple educational pathways that exist to prepare staff for a career in ECEC, as well as staff shortages in many countries, ongoing professional development in this area should be a priority and a requirement for all new staff members. Moreover, in light of the shortage of male staff in the ECEC field across countries, encouraging multiple educational pathways to become an ECEC staff member may help address the gender imbalance by creating more opportunities for men to join this workforce. Supplementing these different educational pathways with specific training for new staff members on working with young children is important to ensure both process quality and diversity among staff in ECEC. Countries like Korea, where participation in professional development is nearly universal regardless of staff educational background, can ensure that all new staff, regardless of their educational attainment, receive training on working with young children. In Japan, a large majority of staff are relatively highly educated and have received practical training to work with children, but participation in professional development could be strengthened, as it is associated with more staff support for process quality.

  2. 2. Providing ongoing professional development and support for participation to all staff: Participation in professional development activities is linked with better process quality. However, staff with higher levels of pre-service education are more likely to access professional development than their colleagues with lower levels of education. To address this inequity, policies can require all staff, regardless of educational background, to engage in ongoing training opportunities. In pre-primary settings such as in Chile or Israel where staff education is strongly linked with their roles in the centre (i.e. teacher or assistant), this type of requirement could also help ensure that all staff members who work with children receive ongoing training.

    Without reducing barriers and providing appropriate supports for staff to engage in professional development, a requirement to participate is not sufficient. Staff shortages are a primary barrier to participation. It is therefore necessary to address these shortages to encourage greater engagement in ongoing training, as well as offering more flexible forms of professional development, such as mentoring and collaboration among staff. These more flexible forms of professional development can encourage learning among staff with different educational backgrounds and levels of experience and can be integrated into regular centre routines, to balance the need for ongoing training with available staffing and financial resources. Creating or fostering incentives for participation in professional development can also help encourage staff to pursue these opportunities.

  3. 3. Ensuring that staff have access to good working conditions, including salaries that reflect their expertise: Staff who believe that ECEC staff are valued in society report adapting their practices more often to meet the needs and interests of children in their target groups, while staff who report more stress from the number of children in their classroom or playroom report adapting their practices less often. Improving working conditions can support process quality. One way to address work-related stress for staff is to ensure manageable group sizes, so that staff have adequate time and resources to engage in high-quality interactions with every child in their care. However, this option can be costly and reducing group size is only one of the spending priorities in the sector. Another option is to ensure staff are prepared to work with the number of children they will likely engage with in their classrooms or playrooms. Furthermore, additional staff members or staff-in-training (e.g. apprentices, interns) can act as assistants to ensure that staff have opportunities to engage individually with children. Policies that support leaders to identify and manage stress among their staff can also benefit process quality, particularly in pre-primary settings in Iceland and Israel, where staff stress related to group size is not always dependent on the number of children in the target group.

    ECEC staff salaries are among the lowest in the education sector while many countries struggle to attract and retain high quality candidates to work in ECEC. However, most countries have limited room for increased public expenditure. Building and retaining a high quality workforce in the ECEC sector requires a holistic and co-ordinated approach with staff salaries being only one element. Other important elements include opportunities for professional development and a review of the cost-efficiency of the expenditures in the sector to ensure that staff have opportunities to progress in their careers and achieve earnings commensurate with their education and expertise.

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3. Teachers, assistants and leaders and the quality of early childhood education and care