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All-in Swedes show the way

If you want a childcare Valhalla, look no farther than Sweden, the authors suggest. Higher taxes mean a virtually universal and affordable service for children from age one, with high levels of satisfaction.

Parents enjoy 18 months of paid leave, with 13 months at 80 per cent of earnings and up to 60 days' paid leave to care for a sick child.

Pre-school services have been brought under education, leading to a curriculum for 0-6s and integration of training for pre-school workers, school-age childcare workers and teachers.

A revised model of training was introduced in 2001, which has created a new category of teacher, taking in pre-school staff and free-time pedagogues.

"Whole-day schools" combine education and childcare (or freetime services) with pre-schools, schools and school-age childcare and are often brought together into clusters under the director of a rektor. The rektor can be a pre-school teacher, schoolteacher or school-age childcare worker. All services share a mainly graduate workforce.

The authors state: "Services are funded and, for the most part, provided by communes (local authorities) on the basis of central government grants and, in the case of pre-schools and free-time services, a low-level parental contribution.

"So, while there is some (state-funded) independent provision, most provision across early childhood and school-age childcare services, as well as schools, has one local provider and one local administrative system."

That leads to an integrated school day with education and care in one setting.

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