"Early childhood education is the responsibility of the nation as a whole and is vitally important for the future. That is why we all have a responsibility – at local government, state and national level," stressed Federal Family Affairs Minister Franziska Giffey on Friday in Berlin. Now that all federal states have laid down in a contract with federal government precisely how they intend to invest the federal funds, the scheme can move forward to the implementation phase. "It is up to the federal states to invest the 5.5 billion euros wisely between now and 2022. They have selected locally appropriate measures. The provisions of the law will be translated into practice," declared Franziska Giffey.
With the Gute-Kita-Gesetz (Good Nursery Act) the German government aims to improve the quality of early childhood education on a lasting basis, and iron out differences that currently exist between individual federal states. The fees parents have to pay are also to be reduced. The federal government is to make 5.5 billion euros available to the states to this end by 2022.
Higher quality, lower fees
Federal government is to provide the funding, while the federal states are responsible for ensuring that the funding is used where it is most needed: for pre-school children and their families, the nursery and day care facilities and their staff. The contracts now concluded indicate the following:
- Most funding to be invested in improving quality
The states plan to invest about two thirds of the funding provided under the Act to enhance the quality of early childhood care in nurseries and day care facilities, with the other third going to reduce fees paid by parents. Eleven states would like to reduce the number of children per educator, ten are focusing on initiatives to attract and retain specialist staff, eight intend to support the managers of nurseries and day care facilities, and six to further develop child day care.
- Motivated and qualified specialists
Staff are the crucial factor that determines the quality of childcare. In this area, ten federal states are to invest a total of 420 million euros – in a forward-looking training model, needs-driven support with experts advisory services and sound professional development options.
- No fees for low-income families
Since August 2019 families receiving child benefit supplements or housing benefits have been exempt from paying fees across the country. Fees everywhere must also be staggered so that families that have a higher income pay more and those that have less also pay less. In addition to this, eleven states are using funds under the new Act to further reduce the financial burden of fees on families and give children access to good early childhood education.
Since the nursery and child day care landscape varies from state to state, the federal government has entered into individual agreements with every single state. Each one could decide independently where it wished to invest most. This is designed to ensure that funds are channelled into the measures that best respond to the state-specific needs. Measures can be selected from ten different fields of action, including improving the staff to child ratio, professional upgrading for educators, language support for children with less developed language skills or longer opening hours. These instruments were identified jointly by federal government and the state governments.
Campaign for more early childhood educators
In addition to the new law, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has earmarked 160 million euros for the nationwide drive to increase the ranks of specialist early childhood educators (Fachkräfteoffensive Erzieherinnen und Erzieher) by attracting more people to a career in early childhood education and retaining fully trained specialists. This high standards set by the nationwide programme are an important signal that the profession must offer attractive conditions if it is going to attract more highly skilled educators.
Overall, with the Good Nursery Act and the nationwide drive to increase numbers in the profession, a total of about 580 million euros are being invested in improving the training and working conditions of early childhood educators.