Introduction

Enhancing the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in order to improve the quality of services for better learning outcomes and ensure a good start in education for all. In particular through projects aiming to develop a holistic and age appropriate education pedagogical framework, including professionalising the workforce for ECEC as well as ensuring that the benefits of early childhood education are carried through to other school education levels, and projects that develop new models of implementation, governance and funding for ECEC.

Learning and education do not begin with compulsory schooling – they start from birth. The early years from birth to compulsory school age are the most formative in children’s lives and set the foundations for children’s lifelong development and patterns for their lives. In this context, high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) is an essential foundation for all children’s successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and later employability (as states the Report of the Working Groups on ECCE under the auspices of the European Commission, “Proposal for key principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care”, October 2014).

Many research studies show how ECEC services have positive impacts not only on children, but also on their parents and families, on women employability, well-being and quality of life. They become an aid for the life and work balance, and at the same time a place to share, debate and develop the parent dimension. In particular, given that public service providers are not sufficient, in numerical terms, private services (often with a different structure and type of organisation, such as tagesmutter or ‘micronidi’, ‘nidi condominiali’) are increasing in order to respond to the families’ demand, also in terms of flexibility and tailored services. Investing in quality of early childhood is thus a priority that guarantees the equal and quality level of services in both public and private ECEC providers. Latest EU projects and the related literature often tackle the topic of quality and quality assurance in ECEC, the need of awareness raising among providers and the large public, and, in the same time, they highlight the inequality across Europe among ECEC service providers.

Therefore, with this project, the partnership aims to respond to the need to improve the quality of ECEC services at providers’ level, through the development and the implementation of self and external evaluation tools as considered the most effective in terms of bottom up approach.

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