26/04/2012 - England should involve parents and communities more closely in the running of kindergartens and encourage firms to offer more flexible working hours in order to improve the quality of its early childhood education and care services, according to a new OECD report.
Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care: United Kingdom (England) says that increasing parental and community engagement boosts early development and future academic success, particularly for children from disadvantaged families. It can also help strengthen the quality of parenting and the home-learning environment.
Australia, Finland, Germany and New Zealand are among a number of countries where there is a legal obligation for preschools to engage parents in their activities. England could consider doing this, according to the OECD.
The report highlights strategies from other countries that could serve as a model for England as it develops its early childhood education and care programme.
In Finland, for example, there is a legal obligation for municipalities to set up a plan for developing child welfare services. In Norway, every kindergarten must have a parent council made up of parents and a parent-staff co-ordinating committee.
To engage more parents in their children’s education, in New Zealand parents can run play centres. They are typically open for one to five sessions a week to provide play, social and learning opportunities and are often less formal that government-provided centres. These are partly subsidised by the government.
Giving fathers paid parental leave would also help, according to the report. While England scores around the OECD average for paid maternity leave, and has the most generous unpaid maternity leave entitlement, paid leave for fathers is nearly non-existent.
International research identifies five key areas that are most effective in encouraging quality in early childhood education and care: setting out quality goals and regulations; designing and implementing curriculum and standards; improving qualifications, training and working conditions; engaging families and communities; and advancing data collection, research and monitoring. England asked the OECD to focus on engaging families and communities.
The report is available to download.
Further information about OECD work on early childhood education and care is available at www.oecd.org/edu/earlychildhood. It includes the online version of the full report, research briefs, country strategies and international comparative data.