By Ruth Heuvelman (CED-group) and Pauline Slot (Utrecht University)
Recently, an increasing number of childcare organizations have been taken over by large investors. This evokes reactions from both proponents and opponents. Proponents indicate that this leads to investment in quality, whereas opponents consider it a worrying development at the expense of quality. What does scientific research have to say about aspects that contribute to the quality of childcare?
Better working conditions, higher quality
Several studies have shown that the working conditions of child care professionals play an important role in the quality that these professionals provide to children . These working conditions can relate to the group size, the staff-child ratio, but also to the professional development opportunities and the organizational climate in the centre. What does this mean for practice?
Smaller groups and favorable staff-child ratio
A lot of research shows that smaller groups and a favourable staff-child ratio are related to higher quality . A caregiver or teacher who has less children to look after can have more and higher quality interactions with the children that are tailored to their needs and development.
Professional development as an important predictor
More opportunities for professional development are an important predictor of quality . Results of the recent Dutch National Quality Monitor for Childcare  show that in-service training, substantive team consultation and coaching have a positive influence on both emotional and educational quality. Both collegial collaboration and the fact that further professionalization is contractually recorded (in hours) are relatively strong predictors of educational quality. Support for the permanent professionalization of employees within an organization is important and should be part of the employment conditions.
Organization type and organizational climate are also important
Results from the European CARE study (www.ecec-care.org) show that caregivers and teachers provide the highest emotional quality when they work in centers with an overall better organizational climate and more opportunities for professional development . A good organizational climate includes a high degree of collegiality and working on shared goals based on a shared vision.
Engaged, missionary organizations
Furthermore, it appears that the type of organization is related to the provided quality . Engaged missionary organizations provided higher quality than organizations with a stronger profit-oriented profile. Engaged professional organizations less frequently emphasized for-profit goals, but rather focused on promoting inclusion and equal opportunities. Also, these organizations reported an active and outreaching approach towards parents, neighbourhood and school. Also, the amount of professionalization was an important aspect in these organizations. Staff in engaged organizations reported feeling less stressed at work and feeling more connected to the team. Organizations with a stronger for-profit profile showed more service-orientation to parents. Notably, these organizations appeared to provide lower quality than the engaged professional organizations.
Only the right investment in childcare benefits everybody!
In this discussion, it is important to focus primarily on the aspects that actually contribute to the quality of childcare, both for the children as for the staff. When we invest in a good working environment and effective professional development, investing in childcare really pays off to the whole society!
References[1, 2, 3] Slot, P. L. (2018). Literature review: Early Childhood Education and Care quality: relations between structural characteristics at different levels and process quality. OECD: Paris. doi: 10.1787/edaf3793-en  Landelijke Kwaliteitsmonitor https://www.monitorlkk.nl/pathtoimg.php?id=3087  Slot, P. L., Cadima, J., Salminen, J. E., Pastori, G., & Lerkkanen, M-K. (2016). Multiple case study in seven European countries regarding culture-sensitive classroom quality assessment. EU FP7 CARE: Curriculum & Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European Early Childhood Education and Care, University of Jyväskylä. Website: http://ecec-care.org/ Report: http://ecec-care.org/fileadmin/careproject/Publications/reports/CARE_WP2_D2_3_Multiple_Case_study_FINAL_REPORT.pdf  Van de Werf, Slot, Kenis, & Leseman (submittedfor publication)