The Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Familienorganisationen (AGF) organised a symposium on “Quality of all-day care for children of primary school age”, since this represents an urgent problem for many parents and children. An expansion of all-day care by the year 2025 is planned which the federal government, the Länder and the municipalities are responsible for. The symposium focused on the question of what the quality of the care should look like from the point of view of families.
After the introduction of a legal entitlement to early childhood education and care (ECEC) and the subsequent expansion, many parents are again faced with the question of the availability, reliability and quality of all-day care. The regionally very unequal availability of such services is a major obstacle to parents returning to work or expanding their employment in some regions.
The Government’s perspective
The event started with Marion Binder from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) who presented the reasons and goals of the Federal Government for the expansion of all-day care for primary school children. The aim of the BMFSFJ together with the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) is to create a legal entitlement to all-day care for primary school children by 2025. This should be so flexible that it remains possible for the Länder and local authorities to retain and further develop existing models of full-day care in the Länder.
This initiative faces challenges and problems. One of the challenges is the unequal starting position in the different federal states. This applies not only to the very different quantitative developments of all-day services in the Länder, but also in particular to the diversity of existing models of all-day care for the age group concerned. Some Länder rely almost exclusively on all-day schools, others almost exclusively on day nurseries. A comparability within the diversity is to be created by a uniform definition of the all-day entitlement. The legal entitlement is to apply nationwide to grades 1 to 4 (primary school), comprise 8 hours per day on 5 days per week and is also to apply during holidays up to a maximum of 4 weeks.
Another challenge are the costs. At present, the Federal Government has earmarked two billion euros for investments in all-day schooling and care facilities. However, more recent calculations based on higher student forecasts point to significantly higher costs than was foreseeable at the time of the coalition negotiations. According to these calculations, the necessary investment costs would be 5 to 7.5 billion compared to the planned 2 billion.
The Research perspective
Under the talk “What quality does all-day care for children of primary school age need?” by Prof. Dr. Frauke Mingerzahn from the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal, the more than 70 participants got an insight into the qualitative needs and requirements of children and parents for all-day care. From the perspective of the “big children” (approx. 6-13 years), full-day care should take into account the developmental needs of these children. This includes the fact that children have freedom of movement, dexterity, physical experience, independent activities, world exploration, encounters, discussions with other children, retreat and recreation as well as acquiring knowledge and skills, and are able to gain experience and experience themselves as self-effective persons. On the other hand, full-day care must take account of the fact that children bring special previous experience and support needs to the institutions, depending on their circumstances.
In general, the demands and expectations placed on the after-school care of the children are directed at aspects such as relaxation, time for friends, play and sport and the possibilities of making free arrangements, but also the reliability of structures. For parents, on the other hand, the focus would be more on criteria such as professional care, homework, the systematic support of children.
Does quantity really come at the cost of quality?
On the question of whether there was a conflict of objectives between quality and quantity in the expansion of all-day care, she pointed to the high challenges facing individual federal states. For example, it is already a problem to cover the demand for skilled workers. In the next 10 years, there will be a high number of retirements among nursery and primary school teachers and at the same time the after-school care is not attracting enough new workers, given the lack of full-time positions and the commuting needed between different places of employment such as nursery and after-school care.
After the two keynote speeches, three working groups took place:
- “Quality criteria for all-day care for primary school-age children.”: At the centre of the working group discussion were questions concerning the training of future teachers and educators for primary schools
- “Cooperation in all-day primary schools – intraprofessional, interprofessional and multiprofessional across school boundaries”: This working group focused exclusively on the experience in all-day schools.
- “Financing all-day care for children of primary school age”: In the working group it was explained in detail the assumptions made for the calculations, which have an influence on the quality of the all-day care.
The symposium finished with a panel discussion which showed that the issue of the quality of all-day care at primary school age is highly complex. Overall, it became clear during the conference that the introduction of the legal entitlement to all-day care at primary school age is a fragile process and not a self-runner. For the federal, state and local governments, the legal entitlement entails new financial burdens. So far, the negotiating parties have expressed the will to create the new entitlement and to arrive at a fair financial solution. This includes, above all, the distribution of the running costs of all-day care. The Federal Government, the Länder and the municipalities seem to be relying on first reaching a basic agreement on the sharing of the financial burdens. The high quality of all-day care is particularly important for parents’ and trade associations. They face the challenge of developing tailor-made quality impulses in the current uncertain political negotiating situation.
For more information on the symposium, visit the AGF homepage which contains all the presentations and documentation of the event: https://www.ag-familie.de/home/termine.html? (in German)