Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Pandemic – InTrans Policy Recommendations
In the last decade, children’s transitions across the home environment, early childhood education and care (ECEC), and compulsory school education have gained attention both in academic and policy debates. Despite this, very few initiatives engage professionals, children, families, and local communities in the creation of warm and inclusive transitional practices. The InTrans project began in 2020 with the aim of addressing this gap by acting at policy and pre- and in-service training levels, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consortium found just how fundamental this topic is in times of crisis.
The pandemic showed the crucial role of the relationship between ECEC centers and children and families. These relationships were foundational during periods of lockdown and of re-opening – times in which ECEC had to work harder to establish partnerships grounded in trust and mutual understanding. As families adapt to the ever-changing rules and regulations, familiarizing themselves and re-familiarizing themselves with centers, the role of transitions in supporting solid ECEC center-family-child relationships must receive renewed attention. The InTrans consortium is publishing two new policy recommendation documents focused on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about each document below.
Reclaiming transitions as inclusive relational spaces in times of crisis and beyond
The InTrans project has identified five key actions that policy decision-makers, providers, and leaders should undertake – in social dialogue with trade union organizations – to enhance the participation of children and families in ECEC in times of crisis and beyond.
By interconnecting its educational, social, and economic functions, ECEC can play a key supportive role in facing the crisis for all children and families, especially those who are at risk of social exclusion (Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025, 2020; Council Recommendation on High-Quality ECEC, 2019).
Removing structural barriers related to availability, accessibility, and affordability of provision is certainly a first step to be undertaken in this direction. However, the evidence collected during the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that implementing such measures does not suffice to ensure the participation of societally disadvantaged groups in ECEC. Research shows that building relationships of trust with children and families is of uttermost importance to reduce the risk of withdrawal and ensure continuity of children’s attendance.
Investing in professionalization of ECEC staff to foster smooth transitions in times of crisis and beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how crucial it is to keep the relationship between ECEC centers and families and children alive. Considering the possible fear and stress that parents and children experienced during the pandemic situation, ECEC had to invest even more than usual in establishing a partnership with families based on mutual trust.
The InTrans project has identified six key actions that policy decision-makers, providers, and leaders should undertake – in dialogue with trade union organizations – to promote the professionalization of ECEC staff, in times of crisis and beyond.
One of the key requirements to support children’s transitions into and from ECEC settings is having a competent staff. This calls for investment in both initial and continuing education paths for all ECEC staff (core practitioners, assistants, etc). On the one hand, there is a need in raising and improving the level of qualification required for ECEC staff, and on the other hand, investment in support reflection on daily practice is needed.