Professor Helen Penn, Co-director of ICMEC, chaired and introduced the second international ICMEC seminar on the topic:
"Childcare quality in the mixed economy of welfare: an economist's view".
This took place at UEL's Docklands Campus on Friday 14 March 2008 and the economist in question was Professor Gordon Cleveland. Gordon Cleveland is Associate Chair and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Management, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, where since 1992 he has been working in the field of childcare. He has written background economic papers for the OECD as part of their 20 nation review of early childhood education and care. His most recent work in Canada attempts to calculate variations in quality across the various childcare sectors, and relate these to costs. Further information about Professor Cleveland's work for OECD and his recent publications is available at www.childcarepolicy.net
The Main Presentation
Can we put a price on quality? Was the question asked by Professor Cleveland, on the basis of an analysis of the data from four separate data sets gathered through studies of for-profit and not-for-profit childcare provision in Canada. This research attempted to calculate variations in quality across these two childcare sectors, and relate these to costs. This three year study by Gordon Cleveland, Barry Forer, Douglas Hyatt, Christa Japel and Michael Krashinsky attempted to establish the factors within non-profit childcare operations which were responsible for higher quality provision. The full report on which the presentation was based can be found by following the link on the childcare policy website. Evidence was provided that difficulties arose from defining what constitutes 'quality'. There are various measures of 'quality' and judgements regarding 'quality' are not consistent. Whether quality childcare may be achieved in a mixed economy of childcare was debated.
Response and Analysis
In his response to Professor Cleveland's presentation, Professor Peter Moss also highlighted the notion and definition of 'quality' as problematic as well as critiquing the impact of a neo-liberal approach to policy-making in social care in the UK. He referred to his recently completed review for the Bertelsmann Foundation, the largest non-profit Foundation in Germany, exploring two models for the development of early childhood education and care services. This report can be found at http://www.kinder-frueher-foerdern.de or by following this link: Peter Moss presentation.
Peter Moss is Professor of Early Childhood at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. His national and cross-national research since the late sixties is reflected in a wide range of publications on early childhood, childhood, early childhood provision, children’s services, gender equity, children's position in early childhood settings and issues around care. Between 1986 and 1996 he was Co-ordinator of the European Commission Network on Childcare and other Measures to Reconcile Employment and Family Responsibilities. His most recent book, co-authored with Gunilla Dahlberg, is Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Education (Routledge, 2005). Further information about his work and publications is available from the Institute of Education website.
Points made by members of the audience
Discussion points raised by the audience of policymakers and analysts, childcare managers, trade union representatives, journalists and academics included:
- A possible reduction in the 'conceptual split' between care and education
- Difficulties in treating 'quality' as a 'commodity'
- Perception of 'quality' problematic and as subjective
- Monitoring quality as a contested activity
- Evidence for children experiencing poor quality childcare in centres
- Market mechanisms to deliver quality debatable
- Critical and analytical thought and debate required regarding private for-profit care and non-profit provision.
Posted by Karen Horsley, 27 March 2008