Early childhood education staff under tremendous stress

The German education unions have asked the authorities to better recognize the role of early childhood educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. You have asked for more resources for staff and funding in the KiTa schools (Early Childhood Education, ECE).

GEW: Research on the Transmission and Incidence of COVID-19 in the ECE Sector

According to the Education and Science Union (GEW) the situation at ECE has worsened considerably since October: there are fewer staff, more COVID-19 infections and more suspected cases.

The incidence of COVID-19 in the ECE sector is monitored nationwide and, unlike the situation in schools, is constantly updated, according to the union. The website Corona-Kita-Studie.de contains detailed monthly and quarterly reports. This website was set up by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) – a federal authority and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention German Youth Institute (German Institute for Youth; DJI), one of the largest social science research institutes in Europe, shows how many ECE centers are affected by COVID-19 infections and suspected cases, and explains their staffing situation.

Increasing infections

The number of COVID-19 cases reported by ECE institutions is increasing steadily and significantly, according to Marlis Tepe, President of GEW and Vice President of Education International. Tepe quoted Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey, who announced in mid-October that “only every hundredth person is infected”. In the first week of November that number was 9.2 percent, almost one in ten. Although it is not reported whether children or educators are infected, the proportion of employees who “were absent due to COVID-19, for example got sick on vacation” rose from 2.7 to 4.5 percent within a month, according to the union .

Organisational questions

The GEW pointed out that this raises health problems, but also organizational problems. For example, the ECE institutions indicate every week on a scale from 1 to 6 how difficult it is for them to provide needs-based care. At the beginning of October, the average level of difficulty for the ECE school principals and ECE employees was 2.3. a month later it was 2.7.

"The ECE centers are slowly reaching their limits," explained Professor Bernhard Kalicki, one of the Corona KiTa study leaders at the DJI. "Which personnel will be deployed where needs to be planned more precisely than before the pandemic."

The steadily deteriorating situation does not surprise Professor Walter Haas, one of the study directors at the RKI. In October, he stated that an increasing number of infections would affect childcare.


However, the role of children in the infection process has not yet been fully explored. The COALA initiative – a component of the Corona-KiTa study -, i.e. the nationwide collection of smears and blood samples from employees and families in 15 to 20 day-care centers in which infections occurred, should have information about the extent and under what conditions the ECE – Institutions contributed to the transmission of COVID-19? In addition, a study called CATS (Corona-KiTa-Surveillance) aims to analyze extensive data from the health authorities. The results of these two studies are not expected until 2021.

VBE: OECD study confirms shortage of skilled workers in ECE institutions and urgent measures

The Association of Education and Training (VBE) has reaffirmed the need to support ECE schools and to increase the number of ECE educators.

UBE Beckmann, Federal President of VBE, commented on the second report on the results of the international “Teaching and Learning” survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is getting off to a strong start: “The results confirm what we repeatedly found out through our study on ECE school principals have leadership during the annual representative German congress of the ECE institutions: There is a red warning in early childhood education and an urgent need for action.

"In Germany we can count ourselves lucky that the educators in this country have excellent professional qualifications and do their work with conviction and motivation," he said. “However, if the people who were already tremendously successful before the coronavirus pandemic and are doing even more in the current situation – and this undoubtedly includes daycare specialists – are disappointed in politics, it is not only terrible for them , but also for the children and the future of our society as a whole.

Investment in staff and salaries

Beckmann said: "We are facing an accident when the imbalance between responsibility and recognition in early childhood makes people increasingly dissatisfied and / or sick and discourages potential young colleagues."

For him, “massive, sustained and extensive investments in a significantly higher workforce” are required at the national level, which in particular implies “adequate, significantly better pay”, also during the training period.

He went on to say that there is an urgent need to develop training capacities without lowering skills levels and that adequate training opportunities must be provided.

In addition, Beckmann emphasized the need for development prospects for trained specialists and the facilitation of the work of employees at ECE schools, for example employees with administrative tasks, through appropriate digital devices.

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