Series: CASE Studies on Poverty, Place and Policy

 

Poverty is still a real issue within Britain today and this essential series provides evidence-based insights into how communities and families are dealing with it.

Published in conjunction with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, this series draws together fresh research and sheds important light on the impact of anti-poverty policy, focusing on the individual and social factors that promote regeneration, recovery and renewal.

CASE Studies on Poverty, Place and Policy

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in Germany. Germany is experiencing a rapid expansion of provision in the ECEC sector, particularly in the western part of the country, where levels of provision were traditionally low. All children are now entitled to a nursery or family day care place from the age of three, and that entitlement is to be extended downwards to reach children age one and two. However, thus far, it is mostly higher income families who access ECEC for younger children, in part because mothers in these families are most likely to be employed. Young children with a migration background are much less likely than their peers to be enrolled both before and after age three. The chapter also describes developments to improve the quality of provision, including the innovative work of the National Quality Initiative.

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This chapter draw together the evidence from our eight country case studies to examine how different countries have best addressed the common challenge of the “childcare triangle” – ensuring that early childhood education and care is accessible and affordable to all children, whatever their background, and that is also high quality. It identifies common themes and highlights insights from good practice which might be useful in thinking about the way ECEC is organised, funded and delivered with the goal of equitable access in mind. It seeks not to focus too heavily on contemporary policy debates in any one country but to draw out broader lessons that will stand the test of time.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in the US. It describes the split in responsibilities between federal and state (and local) governments, and underlines the key role played by the private sector, including for-profit providers. Significant disparities in enrolment are evident, with low income children and children of immigrants less likely than their peers to be enrolled, and less likely to be in formal school or centre based care. Low income children also attend care of lower average quality than that attended by higher income children. The authors discuss current policy initiatives to reduce disparities including efforts to expand and improve the federal Head Start program for low income children, federal and state quality improvement efforts, and state and local expansions of prekindergarten programs serving three and four year olds.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in Australia. It describes current national initiatives include an aspiration to provide all children with high quality preschool, staffed by trained teachers, in the year before school entry, and efforts to improve quality through an early years learning framework. However, the chapter also points to considerable remaining local and state variation, and to concerns about whether children from lower income families will be priced out by quality improvements. The preschool offer is not free, although it is intended that cost should not be a barrier to entry. Enrolment is not universal and children from low income families are less likely to attend than their higher income peers. A further complicating factor in the Australian context is the large role that has been played by the private sector, including for-profit providers.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in the UK, highlighting both developments over the past 15 years and remaining challenges. Using new data, it examines the social gradient in access to high quality provision within the free entitlement for three and four year olds, finding that children in more deprived areas are much more likely than children from better off areas to attend maintained settings, where staff include qualified teachers. However, outside the entitlement concerns remain about both access and quality. The authors explore the policy mechanisms in operation and offer suggestions for improvements, including expanding maintained nursery classes to deliver the entitlement (including for two year olds), raising and equalizing qualification levels across all settings, and extending supply side subsidies to cover younger children, to make care more affordable for parents.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in the Netherlands, where ECEC services are strongly divided by social class. Private day care centres provide care for young children whose parents are employed, while publicly funded playgroups mainly serve children from lower income families and minority backgrounds. The authors provide new evidence on the relative quality of care children receive in the two types of programs, using data from the Pre-Cool survey for two year olds. Reassuringly, they find that the average quality of care on offer in playgroups is at least as good as that provided by private day care centres. However, they also find that within the private day care sector, higher income children tend to receive care of higher quality than their lower income peers.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in France. France is a leader in the ECEC arena, but while it has achieved universal preschool provision for children age three and up in high-quality école maternelles, it faces challenges in the supply of care for children under the age of three. There is a shortfall of places and participation is strongly graded by social class: children of non-working, low income, or low educated parents are less likely to participate and less likely to attend a crèche (childcare centre). The supply concerns have led to recent policy efforts to expand the number of places available, even if this means potentially reducing quality (by for example permitting lower staff qualifications and increased child/staff ratios).

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Providing quality early education and care for disadvantaged children

Early education and care has become a central policy area in many countries. As services expand rapidly, it is crucial to examine whether children from disadvantaged backgrounds receive provision of the highest possible quality.

In this original, topical book, leading experts from eight countries examine how early education and care is organised, funded and regulated in their countries. Bringing together recent statistical evidence, the book gives an up-to-date picture of access to services by different groups, providing rich insights on how policies play out in practice, and the extent to which they help or hinder disadvantaged children to receive high quality provision.

An equal start? reveals the common tensions and complexities countries face in ensuring that early education and care is affordable, accessible and of high quality. Its critical examination of the potential for better policies ensures that An equal start? will be of interest to academic readers as well as policy makers and practitioners.

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This is the introductory chapter to a comparative volume examining how successfully, and through what mechanisms, policies in eight different countries ensure access to high quality early education and care for disadvantaged children. The chapter begins by examining the research evidence on the impact of early education and care for children’s outcomes, including a discussion of the importance of the quality of provision. It then explains the purpose and scope of the volume and sets out the rationale for choosing the eight countries and considers some broad similarities and differences between them, drawing on international data. Finally, it provides a brief overview of each of the country chapters, highlighting the key policy issues that arise in each one.

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in New Zealand. It chronicles the remarkable changes in ECEC policy over the past few decades, with the establishment of a universal entitlement to preschool for three and four year olds, subsidies for children under three, and a commitment to quality that included the goal of having 100% of staff in the sector be qualified teachers. While New Zealand has now entered a period of retrenchment (with a freeze in funding and a revision of the teacher target to 80% rather than 100%), at least part of the stated purpose for this is to free up funds that can be focused on increasing access and quality for the most vulnerable children. It remains to be seen what the net effect of these reforms will be for disadvantaged children, and for the system as a whole.

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