Free of charge ECEC increased participation in ECEC among five-year-olds, but there is still great local variation. Local variation is produced by the varying ways in which municipalities organise free of charge ECEC as well as by the practices of granting municipal supplement to child home care allowance. Heads of early education centres and family day care supervisors mainly had a positive view of their job descriptions. However, attention should be paid to leadership in ECEC as approximately one quarter of the heads of early education centres found their job description burdensome and the number of their subordinate staff too large.
On 18 November 2021, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) will publish two evaluations of ECEC, one of which deals with leadership in ECEC and the other with the free of charge experiment on ECEC for five-year-olds.
The data for evaluating the current state of leadership was collected in two different surveys, the first of which was targeted at the office holders responsible for ECEC and the second at heads of early education centres and family day care supervisors. All the municipalities and private service providers in Mainland Finland participated in the collection of evaluation data.
In the third phase of the experiment on free of charge early childhood education and care, evaluation data was collected from the guardians of five-year-olds and the municipal office holders responsible for ECEC. Twenty-six municipalities in Mainland Finland participated in the third phase of the experiment, offering 20 weekly hours of ECEC to five-year-olds free of charge. The experiment launched by the Ministry of Education and Culture ended in summer 2021.
Many of the heads of early education centres were satisfied with their job description and found it meaningful, but a shortage of staff was visible in their work, as well
In the evaluation focusing on leadership in ECEC, it was observed that the majority of the heads were satisfied with their job description. However, some considered it to be burdensome and found the number of their subordinate staff too large. The heads managing small entities occasionally had a more positive view of their job descriptions than heads managing medium-sized or large entities. Among other things, busyness and the fragmented and unpredictable nature of the work were brought up as factors complicating the work. These were seen to have resulted especially from a shortage of staff, because of which heads use a large proportion of their working time to find substitutes.
– The shortage of qualified ECEC staff is a topic that provokes a lot of discussion and awareness of it has increased the number of students educated in the field. However, from the point of view of everyday leadership, other local solutions are also required quickly to secure a sufficient number of staff, Senior Evaluation Advisor Anna Siippainen from FINEEC points out.
The largest proportion of the monthly working hours of the heads were consumed by personnel management and pedagogical leadership, but the heads still hoped to have more time for them. The job description of the heads should therefore be developed further in such a manner that leadership as a whole will be manageable and the head will be able to support the staff in the implementation of high-quality ECEC.
– Leadership in ECEC can be considered an important part of the chain that enables the implementation of high-quality ECEC. It is therefore important that attention is paid to leadership in ECEC, and its development is undertaken as a joint effort in early education centres, municipalities and national decision-making alike, Siippainen stresses.
The experiment on free of charge ECEC increased five-year-old´s participation in ECEC
Based on the evaluation, the free of charge ECEC increased five-year-old´s participation in ECEC. However, the evaluation data would seem to indicate that the participation of five-year-olds in ECEC was different in municipalities participating in the experiment if the municipality offered a municipal supplement to child home care allowance. Those five-year-olds whose younger sibling was cared for at home were also more often cared for at home themselves. It was observed in the evaluation that in some participating municipalities, the participation of the five-year-old in free of charge ECEC led to the family losing the municipal supplement to home care allowance for the younger siblings.
– The structures of the service system should not include factors that prevent participation in ECEC or cause financial losses to the families. The municipal supplement to child home care allowance and the local terms related to it should also be examined from the point of view of families’ equality, Senior Evaluation Advisor Julia Kuusiholma-Linnamäki points out.
A key factor in the participation of a five-year-old in ECEC is the guardians’ view on whether ECEC promotes the child’s growth and learning or not. High-quality ECEC may in itself increase participation in ECEC.
– As a reminder, we would like to say that the participation rate must also be discussed from the point of view of ways of organising ECEC and the pedagogy. If free of charge ECEC is intended to be a more permanent solution, it must also be ensured that municipalities will be supported financially in organising the free services, Kuusiholma-Linnamäki summarises.
The results of the evaluation reports will be published in the publication webinar organised from 10.00 to 14.00 on 18 November 2021. See the FINEEC website for more information on the event (in Finnish).
The diverse leadership structures and leadership in early childhood education and care:
- Anna Siippainen, Senior Evaluation Advisor, tel. +358 29 533 5566, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Janniina Vlasov, Counsellor of Evaluation, tel. +358 29 533 5543, email@example.com
Evaluation of an experiment on free early childhood education and care for five-year-olds:
- Julia Kuusiholma-Linnamäki, Senior Evaluation Advisor, tel. +358 29 533 5551, firstname.lastname@example.org