Edition 19 April 2019, by Femke van Iperen
‘Satisfactory to good’
The latest Dutch National Quality Monitor for Childcare report shows a positive picture when it comes to childcare in the Netherlands.
The average quality of daycare for children in the Netherlands has been found ‘satisfactory to good’ for the years 2017 and 2018. The findings follow a recent report of the National Quality Monitor for Childcare, known as the LKK (Landelijke Kwaliteitsmonitor Kinderopvang), done on behalf of the government. The LKK assesses, on the basis of samples, the quality of daycare for children aged 0-4 (kinderdagverblijf), toddler playgroups (peuteropvang), out-of-school care for children aged 4-12 (buitenschoolse opvang) and childminder care (gastouder). Childcare in the Netherlands is also found to perform well from an international perspective.
In the Netherlands, a total of 323,000 children go to daycare or toddler group, 368,000 children go to out-of-school care, and 114,000 children go to daycare provided by childminders, according to a Rijksoverheid press release of February 2019, ‘Positive verdict on quality Dutch childcare.’ The Dutch government considers safe and high-quality childcare of great importance, as it enables parents to combine work and care and contributes to the development of children. The quality of childcare in the Netherlands is assessed annually on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The assessment provides an indication of what is going on in the various facilities across the country that offer these types of daycare, and gives advice on how to improve it. The latest assessment is made on the basis of combined data from the years 2017 and 2018.
The recent conclusions were presented by a cooperation between Utrecht University and educational and care specialist Sardes, under the name National Quality Monitor Childcare (LKK). With the monitor, the LKK will measure the quality in childcare in the Netherlands to 2020, with a possible extension through 2025. The new consortium has taken over from the Dutch Consortium for Childcare Research (NCKO), which was previously responsible for monitoring the quality of childcare in the Netherlands, although this was based on relatively small samples.
The national sample was carried out through interviews and observations in 2017 and 2018, and was performed in such a way as to guarantee representative distribution across regions and urban and rural areas, according to the consortium. Researchers visited 61 groups for childcare, 67 toddler groups, 64 groups for out-of-school care and 96 childminders. According to a LKK fact sheet, various quality characteristics were measured.
The overall ‘emotional quality’ ─ for which researchers assessed the atmosphere in the group, the sensitivity of the employees to the children’s perspective, such as respect for the autonomy of children, and the quality of supervision of children’s behaviour ─ was found to be ‘good’ in all types of childcare. In the category of educational quality, all groups were judged to be ‘mediocre to satisfactory’. For this category, observers looked, for example, at the ways language development and reasoning skills were being stimulated. Levels of wellbeing among children, for which researchers gauged levels of self-confidence and fun, were valued as ‘good’, while levels of childrens’ involvement, drive and motivation were found to be ‘mediocre to satisfactory’. With rehgard to group behaviour, individual children scored high in all types: there were few conflicts.
The levels of professionalisation among pedagogical staff and childminders were ‘mediocre to satisfactory’. In all childcare types, professionals showed positive signs when it came to job fulfilment and motivation, as well as relationships with colleague. They experienced a positive, stress-free and supporting work climate, in which they felt involved in making decisions. The quality of interactions between children and professionals was considered ‘satisfactory to good’.
A new status
Childcare in the Netherlands has long been considered primarily as an instrument to increase parent’s participation in the job market, but in the past decade this viewpoint has shifted, said the LKK on its website. Childcare is increasingly being viewed as a fully-fledged, valuable educational facility in its own right, with the capacity to play a key role in the education and development of young children. Reflecting this new status, states the LKK, some key developments have taken place, such as the development of integrated childcare centers (IKCs), as well as recent financial investments aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of childcare.
In addition, the LKK states, the new innovation and quality of childcare act (Wet Innovatie en Kwaliteit Kinderopvang or IKK), that came into effect on 1 January 2018, confirms this trend. The new law, states a dedicated site of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, will support an increased focus in the sector on the development of the child, as well as on the education of pedagogical employees, who, with increased qualification requirements, will have access to higher vocational education. Pedagogical staff should also be increasing their expertise in dealing with babies, as well as develop further their general interaction skills. Children in daycare are now often assigned a mentor, and the professional-to-babies ratio for some groups has been tightened from 1 in 4 to 1 in 3.
The new law is not the only challenge that the childcare sector is currently facing, as there is a discrepancy between an increased demand for daycare in 2018 and the supply of suitable professionals. This means that the childcare sector is feeling the pressure of its new responsibilities that come with being seen as a fully-fledged educational and development-oriented sector.
Compared to the actual measuring methods that were used before the LKK took over, there have been some significant changes. New approaches, which now take into account the new role of the childcare sector as an educational provider, can ensure more reliable and accurate results and ensure long-term trend analyses. These new ways of assessing include video recordings of interactions between children. This also makes it possible to compare Dutch childcare with international standards. The new survey for the first time included childminders, although the LKK faced a challenge in this respect, since the response rate among childminder was quite low and the results therefore less accurate.
In addition, LKK researchers looked at some of the key determining factors that play a role in the results, such as the size of groups and the professional-child ratio. It was concluded that a larger group (provided it is within legal limits) offers more possibility for child-to-child interactions, although more interactions with professionals (in smaller groups) improve the emotional and education quality. An inclusive environment, which bodes well for the diversity of children and parents, can contribute to a higher emotional and education quality. Increased contact opportunities between parents and childcare employees, such as interactive media and group meetings, are also seen as valuable for the educational quality of groups.
The combined measurements of 2017 and 2018 revealed a predominantly positive picture of the quality of childcare in the Netherlands, consistent with the results of the interviews with pedagogical staff and childminders. In fact, according to the Rijksoverheid, childcare (excluding care for babies and out of-school care) in the Netherlands usually scored better than in countries such as Germany, Switserland, Portugal, the US and Belgium (Flanders) on both emotional and educational quality.
Based on the ‘satisfactory to good’ emotional quality of care, researchers concluded that Dutch childcare employees ‘ensure a safe pedagogical climate,’ that children in this type of care support each other, and that older children help the younger ones. One area of potential improvement that was established was the availability of professional training for those active in the sector. The researchers also found that out-of-school care for older kids should not be considered an extension of childcare for smaller children, but a type of childcare in its own right, with specialised staff.
So where to go from here? The Rijksoverheid states that the LKK findings not only give us an impression of the quality of the four childcare types in the Netherlands at a given moment, but that the findings also offer a cumulative insight into the factors that matter for the quality of the groups: which aspects actually make a difference to the development of children in childcare and why. In the coming period the Dutch government aims to further expand these insights and share them with everyone who is involved in childcare in the country.