Early childhood education and care in Europe: Exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

22 October 2021

In March 2021, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, launched an event series on early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Europe.

Agata D’Addato, Eurochild Senior Project Manager and campaign coordinator, spoke on behalf of Eurochild during DG EAC webinar on Early Chidlhood which was hosted on 5 October. In her speech Agata D’Addato highlighted how:

  • Addressing childhood poverty is the road out of this pandemic because if we want to have an inclusive recovery we should prioritize investment in children.
  • Millions of children are missing out on a fair start in life because their parents and families are not getting the necessary support in line with their needs.
  • Early childhood services must be inclusive and accessible to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and families. We need legislative, policy and financial measures to promote and improve access to quality early childhood education and care for the most disadvantaged children.
  • We would like the EU to be collecting and monitoring comparable data across the EU Member States to drive progress. The pandemic has revealed a critical lack of data, evaluation and monitoring systems, and, more specifically, countries’ inability to integrate data across multiple sectors relevant to early childhood education and care.

At the event the results of the results of reports prepared by the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and NESET – the Network of Experts working on the Social dimension of Education and Training, were presented.

The NESET report explores how European Union Member States have attempted to ensure high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in the era of COVID-19. The data analysed show that ECEC played a crucial role in countering the negative effects of the pandemic on children, families and communities. However, compared with other levels of education, ECEC appears to have been one of the sectors most vulnerable to the policy decisions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Commission Report provides information on the guidance and support provided to ECEC services and staff and to families. It reflects the great diversity of ECEC governance systems in most European countries, with many levels of decision-making and financing, especially in split -system countries, where more than one ministry supervises the sector. In the context of the pandemic, this has sometimes created difficulties.

Watch the video recording of the webinar