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Knowledge, Skills and Attitudinal Competences for Quality Early childhood Education and Care

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECECWorkforce (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudinal Competences for Quality Early childhood Education and Care)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) is established as supporting the holistic development of children, with the initial training of the workforce being central to quality. However, what the structure and content of initial qualifications should be to secure quality ECEC remains unknown (Early et al. 2006; Fukkink and Lont 2007).
European Key Competences for Lifelong Learning provide a European-level reference tool for education providers, including those providing initial training for future members of the ECEC workforce, to develop “a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context” (European Commission 2007). The research undertaken therefore examined:
The knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for working in ECEC and the role of Higher Education (HE) in developing these in ECEC pedagogues.
To meet this objective the project was divided into four research questions:
• What are the qualification requirements of the ECEC workforce across European Member states (HE and otherwise) and how do they relate to data on child outcomes?
• What are the qualification requirements and content in regards to the knowledge, skills and attitudinal competences they uphold in seven selected European Member states?
• What knowledge, skills and attitudes do Hungarian stakeholders identify as appropriate for ECEC pedagogues and how do they think they are developed?
• What are the delivery methods and practices of ECEC HE qualifications for developing the knowledge, skills and attitudinal competence at a Hungarian university?
Hungary has had HE level initial training for those working with children from three to school age since 1958 (Oberhuemer et al. 2010) with pedagogical ideals of child loving adults, who provide nurturing environments to support children’s holistic development (Brayfield and Korintus 2011; Korintus 2008). Both characteristics provide points of interest in exploring the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for a quality ECEC workforce.
The research provides an important contribution to both enhancing understandings of what is required of the ECEC workforce and how they acquire the identified attributes, contributing to debates professionalism and competences for ECEC.
The research was divided into four stages, reflecting the objectives.

European Mapping of Qualifications and Child Outcomes
The analysis was divided between considering ECEC services for children from birth to three and those three to school age, reflecting a common divide in ECEC services in European countries. Overall, the data indicates a trend for more variation between countries in the requirements for those working with younger children and that the requirements for working with younger children are generally lower than those for working with older children. These trends indicate a need to address the inequalities in experiences of children birth to three attending ECEC and to bring the workforce requirements for those working with younger children up to the same level as those working with older children.

Systematic Analysis of Knowledge, Skills and attitudes for ECEC
Analysis of existing literature and country documentation considered what are the knowledge, skills and attitudes for the context of ECEC. The review identifies that knowledge, skills and attitudes are interrelated. Whilst there might appear to be a linear relationship between knowledge (as know-that) and skills (as know-how) (Winch 2010; Winch 2014) this was not the case. Evident in the literature (and later stages of the project) was that those working in ECEC draw on a range of knowledges to inform their practice. Further, the incorporation of attitudes recognises how attributes that can be associated with personality traits shape the application of knowledge. Thus, the analysis identified a range of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will come together in different measures to respond to the context of working in ECEC – See image one.

Hungarian Country Analysis of Knowledge, Skills and Attitudinal Competences
Based on the sub items identified in image one, an online questionnaire was developed and disseminated to those working in ECEC services in Hungary. Three hundred and fourteen responses were generated. Respondents predominantly worked in kindergartens (77.7%) reflecting the low levels of daycare provision that is present in Hungary. Research participants were largely qualified (93.3%), with others undertaking their training. The majority of participants had a Bachelors degree (74.5%), with a small number having a Masters (7.4%). Those with qualifications had, on average, obtained them 21 years ago, with a range of one to 43 years.
Image two provides the average scores (0-10) given for the knowledge, skills and attitudes identified. The range of scores between the different items is minimal, indicating the relevance of the items, but offering little suggestion that any one area was particularly important. The top five rated items relate to attitudes, which can be accounted for by Hungarian ECEC pedagogic traditions being focussed on child loving adults. However, with the small variations in the average scores, it should be noted that it is the combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes that appears to be important rather than any single area.

Micro Analysis of Hungarian Approaches to ECEC Pedagogue Training
The final stage of the project explored the survey findings in more depth with those training to work in kindergartens (with children three to school age) and how they 'learn' to work in ECEC. Fifteen interviews with students were completed, with seven students also being observed, with the observations being points of discussion for the interviews. All data collected from students was shared with the individual student participants to enable them to further comment on the data or request for aspects of the data to be withdrawn. Involvement in the research was voluntary and confidential for all participants, with students being made aware that participation would have no consequences for their academic studies.
The interviews with the students indicated support for the items identified in the questionnaire and a foregrounding of attitudinal items. However, whilst students would refer to working in ECEC in relation to terms such as love and sensitivity, it was evident that assessment practices acted as a constraint on students being able to explore these concepts in depth and to develop an articulated meaning of them. Instead, assessment practices reflected adult-led tasks to be undertaken in order to fulfil observable skills such as storytelling or completing a PE activity. The initial ECEC training model therefore demonstrated missed opportunities in supporting students to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for the context of ECEC.
Findings have been disseminated at a number of European conferences, as well as a number of publications being in press. The findings have been shared with the lead ECEC Policy officer at the European Commission and a new research proposal have been submitted to explore concepts of child-centred practice in six different European member States. future dissemination plans include sharing the findings of the project, via a series of working papers, with relevant government officials in Hungary.