Investing more money in early childhood will improve life chances

For a better children's workforce, study Sweden's methods. Emma Seith reports

Higher taxation, leading to more investment in early childhood, is the best way to improve children's life chances, says an early years expert with more than 30 years' experience.

Peter Moss, professor of early childhood education at the Institute of Education in London, made the comments while delivering his views on inter-professional working at the Children in Scotland conference in St Andrews.

Child abuse cases such as that of Victoria Climbie have highlighted the need for professionals to work together more closely. Yet in England, Professor Moss has found the children's workforce to be increasingly fragmented and hierarchical.

In a review of the systems in England and Sweden, he found there were 17 occupations in England, including a growing number of assistants and early years professionals to be introduced shortly. This compared unfavourably with Sweden, where the workforce had a more coherent and flatter structure, with fewer differences in pay, he said. Many professionals working with children were "pedagogues", who included teachers, pre-school workers and free-time professionals who ran activities out of school hours.

In England, professionals worked in silos, but the Swedish workforce had "a common outlook and shared a language", he said. This was thanks to their broader professional identity as pedagogues.

Size also mattered, Professor Moss said. A third of Swedish schools serve children from the age of six to 16, but in the authority he studied most schools had just 200 pupils.

When asked how resourcing compared, he said: "The Swedes invest more money, particularly in early childhood. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found they invest 2 per cent of their gross domestic product; in England, it was less than 1 per cent. I have to say, the key to good outcomes seems to be high taxation."

WORKFORCE DEBATE

Children in Scotland and the Scottish Government have launched a children's sector workforce debate.

Over the next 12 months, the charity is inviting the workforce, along with employers, planners, universities, colleges and other stakeholders, to voice their opinions about the changes needed to achieve a unified system of children's services.

The debate will culminate in a major conference in Glasgow on March 4.

www.childreninscotland.org.ukworkforce.

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