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Publication - Research and analysis

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING

Published: 29 Jun 2013
Part of:
Health and social care
ISBN:
9781782564164

This report provides an overview of the current situation regarding early childhood education and care provision in Scotland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, France and the Netherlands.

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING
8 Country report: France

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

8 Country report: France

8.1 Key findings

  • France has a universal and yet fragmented system of ECEC displaying a complex combination of subsidised centre-based and home-based arrangements.
  • The French family benefit system is complex and includes a wide range of components.
  • 0.63% of GDP is spent on pre-primary education[415] and 0.4% is spent on childcare.[416]
  • Both parents can take parental leave until the child is three years old.
  • ECEC in France is split by age group, with a universal state system of early education for children between three to six years (when compulsory schooling begins), and a variety of childcare services for children under three years.
  • 85% of early education for children between three to six years (école maternelles) is provided directly by the state, with the remainder mostly provided by non-profit organisations, largely Catholic, which are contracted and subsidised by the state.
  • école maternelles are publicly funded and provided free of charge to parents (other than meals, which are subsidised for families in need).
  • Almost all children attend full-day preschool education from the age of three (between 97-100% depending on the local area) although it is not compulsory. 48.7% of under-threes attended some form of formal ECEC.
  • Parents pay an estimated 27% of the costs of centre-based childcare. OECD data from 2008 estimates that after benefits, childcare costs take up 10% of the average family's income.
  • ECEC settings are monitored through regular inspection. The national agency Protection maternelle et infantile (or PMI) inspects childcare services and education inspectors are responsible for monitoring preschools.
  • Informal care is common in France, particularly for the under-threes.

8.2 Concepts and objectives guiding ECEC development

  • France has a universal and yet fragmented system of ECEC displaying a complex combination of subsidised centre-based and home-based arrangements.

The underlying principle of ECEC in France is that the system should provide equal access for all children to all public ECEC services, irrespective of social or economic background.

The French ECEC system has a long history that dates back to the 19th century, when in light of low fertility rates and European wars, the notion developed that the State had a responsibility to protect maternity, childhood and women's capacity to work outside the home.[417] The development of ECEC was thus strongly embedded in Republican ideals: providing good pedagogical environments for children while their mothers worked, the State also socialised children into French citizens.

Already in 1881, with the adoption of the school laws, nursery schools (école maternelle) attained a strong educational focus, and in 1887 the first French preschool curriculum was adopted.[418] In the first decades of the 20th century, the workforce in école maternelles received the status of teachers.

The expansion of formal ECEC in France took place in the post-WWII decades. In particular, in the 1970s (linked to strong labour shortage) the French government introduced publicly-funded day care centres (crèches). At the same time, childminders were allowed to register so that parents could take advantage of the generous state subsidies existing for the other forms of public ECEC.[419]

  • While there is a strong sense of public responsibility for all forms of formal ECEC, there is a split system with école maternelles for three to five year olds under the auspice of the Ministry of Education and other forms of childcare, particularly for the under-threes, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

8.3 Socio-economic context

The French economy is dominated by services, with about 77% of the active population employed in this sector.[420] France has a GDP per capita at 107% of the EU-27 average.[421]

France has a population of 65.4 million[422] with about 103 people per square kilometre.[423] The total fertility rate is 1.99.[424] 11.5 births occur for every 1000 women age 15-19[425] and the mean age of mothers at first birth is 28.6.[426] 18.3% of the population is under 15 years of age[427] and 12% of children live in sole parent households.[428]

Box 8.1: Summary of population statistics[429]

Total fertility rate: 1.99
Teenage pregnancies: 11.5 per 1000
Mean age of mothers at first birth: 28.6
Child population: 18.3%
Children in lone parent households: 12%

8.4 Employment patterns

The overall employment rate for 2011 was 69.1% of those age 20-64; the unemployment rate was 9.7% for those age 15-74. The employment rate for men age 20-64 was 73.8% and for women 64.6%.[430] Part-time work is more common for women than men: 5.9% of employed men work part-time versus 22.1% of employed women.[431]

75.2% of women age 20-49 without children were employed in 2011, compared to 78.6% of men. 65.4% of mothers with a child below the age of six were employed, compared to 89.4% of fathers. A little over 1/3 of mothers of children age eleven and under work part-time, compared to about 4-5% of similar fathers.[432]

Box 8.2: Summary of employment statistics

Total employment rate: 69.1%
Total unemployment rate: 9.7%
Women's employment rate: 64.6%
Men's employment rate: 73.8%
Mothers' employment rate: 65.4%
Fathers' employment rate: 89.4%
Employed men working part-time: 5.9%
Employed women working part-time: 22.1%

8.5 Welfare system and social support for families with children[433]

Overall government expenditure takes up 56.2% of GDP in France.[434] Public expenditure on social protection is almost 33.1% of GDP[435] with 3.71% of GDP specifically directed toward families and children.[436]

  • 0.63% of GDP is spent on pre-primary education[437] and 0.4% is spent on childcare.[438]

The ratio of income inequality between the top 20% and bottom 20% is 4.5,[439] while the at-risk-of-poverty rate for children is 17.9%.[440] Income tax on the average worker made up 49.3% of labour cost in 2010.[441]

Box 8.3: Summary of public expenditure[442]

Total public expenditure: 56.2% of GDP
On social protection: 33.1% of GDP
On families and children: 3.71% of GDP
On preschool education: 0.63% of GDP

The French social security system consists of a general scheme plus four other specialist components for particular groups (of employees, agricultural workers, self-employed and the unemployed).The general scheme itself has four branches:

  • sickness, maternity, invalidity and death
  • accidents at work and occupational diseases
  • old age pension
  • family

The social security system is financed from national insurance contributions paid by employers and employees and from general tax revenue. Social security contributions are calculated as a certain percentage of earnings. Supplementary collective schemes also exist, both compulsory and voluntary in nature. These schemes are specific to professions (companies or sectors), and they mainly cover old age pension, sickness or invalidity insurance. Individuals may also take out private insurance to supplement these schemes.

  • The French family benefit system is complex and includes a wide range of components.

These are detailed below.

Family allowance (childrearing benefit) is paid for families with responsibility for more than one child. It is a universal, non-means tested scheme financed by contributions from employers, from the self-employed and from a portion of the Generalised Social Contribution (contribution sociale généralisée, CSG). It can be paid until the child reaches 20 years of age as long as the child's income does not exceed 55% of the minimum wage.

The amount paid per month varies with the number of children:

  • two children: €126.41 (£101)
  • three children: €288.38 (£231)
  • four children: €450.35 (£362)
  • five children: €612.32 (£492)
  • six children: €774.29 (£621.52)
  • each subsequent child: €161.97 (£130)

Infant Welcome Benefit is paid in order to welcome, maintain and help with bringing up young children. It is paid to all families with at least one child under the age of three. It consists of two parts:

  • grant for birth or adoption and the basic allowance
  • complement for child care choice

The Birth or Adoption Grant of the Infant Welcome Benefit is €907.60 (£732) granted monthly from the seventh month of pregnancy for every unborn child or €1,815.21 (£1,464) for the adoption of a child less than 20 years of age. It is subject to a means test. The Basic Allowance of the Infant Welcome Benefit is €181.52 (£146) granted monthly as of the first child from the month of birth until the month preceding his/her third birthday, or from the month of adoption for a period of three years, but not beyond the age of 20.

The Complement for Child Care Choice of the Infant Welcome Benefit is a partial payment of care costs for children younger than six. The remuneration of a person taking care of a child under the age of three (reduction of 50% for a child between three and six) is financed partially and varies according to household income. Social contributions are entirely financed when hiring an agreed maternal assistant or financed at a 50% rate (within a ceiling) when hiring a person taking care of a child at home (between €169.57/£136 and €448.25/£360 per month for a child from birth to three years of age).

The Daily Allowance for Parent Presence is granted to any person taking care of a child, younger than 20, who has a sickness or a serious disability that requires a sustained presence. 310 days are credited, to be taken during a period of three years according to the child's need for care (€41.99/£34 per day). This increases to €49.89 (£40) if the person is solely taking care of the child. If the family income is lower than a certain level, an additional amount can be paid when further costs resulting from the disablement or sickness are higher than €105.30 (£85) per month.

The Active Solidarity Income is a minimum income provided for single parents regardless of whether they are capable of working.

The maintenance allowance, based on income, is provided for children who are not acknowledged by either parent or whose father or mother do not fulfil the obligation to pay maintenance. The partial rate is €88.88 (£72) per month and the full-rate is €118.51 (£96) per month.

The New School Year Allowance is provided for children age six to 18. It is a one-off means-tested payment, the amount of which depends on the age of the child:

  • six to ten years: €286.40 (£230)
  • eleven to 14 years: €302.17 (£243)
  • 15 to 18 years: €312.67 (£251)

A means-tested family supplement of €164.53 (£132) is provided for families with at least three children over three years and under 21 years.

A housing allowance is also provided for those receiving one of the various forms of family allowances. The allowance is calculated taking into account the expenses for rent (within the upper limit), the family's situation, and the beneficiary's resources. It can be increased for those with low incomes.

8.6 Leave policies for families with small children[443]

8.6.1 Structure

Leave in France is structured into maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave. Sixteen weeks maternity leave is possible, with at least three weeks to be taken before the birth. Paternity leave is available for eleven working days and must be taken within the four months following the birth.

  • Both parents can take parental leave until the child is three years old.

8.6.2 Payment and funding

Maternity and paternity leave is paid at 100% of earnings, up to a ceiling of €3,031 (£2,433) a month. However, in the public sector there is no ceiling, and some employers also pay in full. Maternity and paternity pay is funded from the health insurance scheme.

Parental leave is not paid as such, but all eligible families have recourse to a childcare allowance of €566.01 (£454) per month, which is linked into parental leave provision. For parents with only one child, this is paid for the six months after the end of maternity leave. In other families, it is paid until the child reaches three years of age. If the parent works part-time, then the benefit is reduced. Large families (with at least three children) are eligible for a flat rate payment of €801.39 (£643) per month for the duration of a year, paid on condition that one parent stops working. The childcare allowances are funded by employers' contributions to the family branch of Social Security, which amount to 5.4% of total wages paid to their employees.

8.6.3 Role of employer

All employees are eligible (as are self-employed workers) for maternity and paternity leave. Employers are often more generous than the statutory entitlements. All employees are eligible for parental leave if they have worked at least one year for their employer before the birth of a child. Eligibility for the childcare allowance becomes more restrictive the fewer children a parent has. For the first child, to be eligible for the childcare allowance, an employee must have been continuously employed for two years preceding the birth.

Employers can refuse to let parents work part-time if they can justify this on business grounds, but this does not apply to the public sector, where employees are entitled to work part-time for family reasons.

8.6.4 Uptake of leave

Almost all mothers take up maternity leave, but it is not compulsory. Women in higher status employment take less leave. Around two-thirds of eligible fathers took paternity leave in 2012. There are few statistics on the uptake of parental leave as employers are not required to provide such information. However, research suggests that mothers make up 98-99% of parents taking leave.

8.7 National framework of ECEC

  • ECEC in France is split by age group, with a universal state system of early education for children between three-six years (when compulsory schooling begins), and a variety of childcare services for children under three years.

Part of the national education system, preschool education is available to all children from the age of three years (or two years if there are available places) and is fully funded and organised by the state. Although this schooling is not compulsory, most children of the appropriate age do attend.[444]

8.7.1 Governance

Children's ECEC services are governed by different public bodies, depending on age group. Early education for children age three to six is part of the national education system and falls under the Ministry of Education. The Department of National Education, Youth and Community Life oversees the school system. Traditionally, the central French state has played a major role in the education system, setting the curriculum and directing staff recruitment and remuneration.[445] Chief Education officers, Académie Directors and school heads oversee the implementation of national education policy at the local level.[446]

Local authorities have played a greater role since decentralisation in the 1980s, and are responsible for day-to-day provision, the physical environment and materials used in schools.[447] The commune (municipality) also provides teaching assistants with a vocational early childhood certificate.[448]

Childcare services for children aged zero to three fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Employment and Solidarity and the Ministry of Health, Family and Disabled Persons. The Directorate of Social Affairs is the overall administrative unit responsible for non-school ECEC. A sub-ministry focusing on youth affairs is partially responsible for overseeing out-of-school services for children under 12 years.

Childcare is partly financed by the National Family Allowance Fund (Caisse Nationale des Allocations Familiales - CNAF), a public agency responsible for family policy, and the decentralised CAFs, (or Caisses des Allocations Familiales) which work with municipalities and non-profit organisations to develop ECEC at the local level.[449]

8.7.2 Types of services

Nursery schools, or écoles maternelles, take children from three to six years of age, although two year olds may be admitted if there are places available.[450] These facilities form part of the education system and are essentially schools for pre-compulsory school age children, with similar instruction methods and large class sizes.[451] They operate during the official school year between September and July, with 24 hours of education per week - usually as four six-hour days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday).[452]

Leisure time centres operate out-of-school care for children outside of school hours.

Crèches take children from the age of three months to three years providing centre-care on a permanent basis. Crèches may be run by municipalities, non-profits or parent cooperatives.

Commercial centre-based care is referred to as jardins d'énfants. These take children from the age of two to six.

In addition, there are centres which provide part-time or occasional care called haltes garderies. Some children also receive care from licensed childminders, or assistantes maternelle.

Since 2007, there also exist so-called 'multi-access centres' (L'établissement multi-accueil), that offer parents a variety of childcare options: occasional, collective or family-based (with childminders). In recent years, the number of these multi-access centres has increased, partly due to the conversion of other ECEC forms into these centres. Today six out of ten places in collective ECEC are offered in such a 'multi-access centre'.[453]

The different types of collective childcare centres are usually referred to as 'collective childcare settings' (L'établissements d'accueil des jeunes enfants, EAJE).

Box 8.4: Types of services[454]

Nursery school (école maternelle): pre-primary education for children age three-six (some two year olds); part of the state education system

Centre-based care:

  • crèches: centres receiving children on a permanent basis
  • crèches collectives: run by municipalities, departments or non-profit organisations
  • crèches parentales : run by parent cooperatives
  • crèche d'entreprise : employer crèches, mostly in the public sector and hospitals
  • centres multi-accueil: offers full-time, part-time and emergency places
  • haltes garderies: centres providing part-time and occasional care; operated by municipalities and non-profit providers; often for non-working parents or for parents who work non-standard hours
  • jardins d'énfants: commercial centres for two to six year olds

Family day care, or childminding (assistantes maternelle):

  • Licensed childminders (assistantes maternelles agrees): care for one to three children in the provider's home
  • Childminding networks (crèche familiale): networks for individual childminders to provide collective care

In-home caregivers (garde à domicile): care in the child's home; not subject to the same regulations as childminders

Out of school services (centre de loisirs sans hébergement): leisure time centres for children outside of school hours and on Wednesday afternoons

8.7.3 Public/private mix of provision

  • 85% of early education (école maternelles) is provided directly by the state, with the remainder mostly provided by non-profit organisations, largely Catholic, which are contracted and subsidised by the state.
  • 36% of crèches and 12% of 'multi-access centres' are run privately, mostly by non-profit organisations or the CAF.[455]

Since 2003, the provision of childcare is open to for-profit providers in line with the government's attempt to expand the availability of ECEC. There have also been initiatives of employers setting up workplace crèches; today there are 500 such crèches in France representing around 2.7% of places available in collective childcare.[456]

Local authorities in France do not have any legal obligation to provide childcare for children under three years, but they are encouraged to do so under the CNAF subsidy system. The proportion of ECEC delivered by non-profit organisations has increased over time, to more than 40%, and often includes both paid professionals and volunteers from the community and parents.[457] Crèches run by parent associations are highly subsidised and form part of the local childcare networks.[458]

Childcare for under-threes is dominated by childminders. Childminders in France are private individuals paid by parents (who receive tax benefits) but are considered to be providing a 'semi-public service' and are regulated accordingly.[459]

  • 53% of the out of school leisure centres are operated by non-profit associations, 42% by the local authority and 5% by businesses, the CAF or individuals.[460]

8.7.4 Financing and costs

  • Preschool education is publicly funded and provided free of charge to parents (other than meals, which are subsidised for families in need).

Childcare is partly financed by the national family allowance fund Caisse Nationale des Allocations Familiales (CNAF) and the decentralised Caisses des Allocations Familiales (CAFs).[461] CAFS distribute family allowances and subsidies for childcare.[462] The funding system for childcare is complicated, with several allowances to help parents pay for care.

  • Parents pay an estimated 27% of the costs of centre-based childcare.[463] OECD data from 2008 estimates that after benefits, childcare costs take up 10% of the average family's income.[464]

In 2010 the total amount of funding to the ECEC system by various public actors was €27 billion (£21.7bn). This sum was almost equally divided between ECEC for children below the age of three and those age three to six. Of this €9.1 billion (£7.3bn) was directly allocated to the running costs of ECEC services for under-threes and €13.4 billion (£10.8bn) to services for three to six year olds respectively.[465]

This sum was split amongst public actors as follows:

  • The branch of the Famille de la Sécurité sociale: €10.9 billions (£8.8bn)
  • The 'collectivites territoriales': €7.9 billion (£6.3bn)
  • Ministry of Education: €6.9 billion (£5.5bn)
  • Tax administration: €1.3 billion[466] (£1.04bn)

In addition public subsidies directly to parents to reduce ECEC costs amounted to €1.1 billion (£0.9bn) for under-threes and €13.7 billion (£11bn) for children age three to six.[467]

In 2009, the annual cost of a place in an école maternelle was calculated to be on average €5,374 (£4,314). The costs of a place in any of the other collective care facilities was €12,504 (£10,036.92); €7.76 (£6.23) per hour.[468] The difference in costs stems from different opening hours (école maternelles close at 16.30 while crèche and other care centres usually are open until 18.00; école maternelles have school breaks, while the care services operate on an all-year basis; there are also differences in staff to child ratios).

Table 8.1: Annual cost of ECEC place in 2009

Nursery schools (école maternelles) €5,374 (£4,314)
Collective childcare facilities (EAJE) €12,504 (£10,037) (£6.23/hour)

8.8 Access levels and patterns of use

  • Almost all children attend full-day preschool education from the age of three, between 97-100% depending on the local area, although it is not compulsory.[469]

48.7% of under-threes attended some form of formal ECEC. For the under-threes, the most common form of formal ECEC is with a registered childminder (27%); followed by collective childcare facilities (EAJE) and nursery schools 19.8%.[470]

  • Informal care is common in France, particularly for the under-threes. Parental care is the most common for this age group, with a bit more than half being taken care of in the family home, usually by one parent (in practice mostly the mother).

Table 8.2: Main formal ECEC arrangements for under-3s

% of all children under 3
Collective childcare facilities (EAJE) 14.7
Nursery schools (école maternelles) 5.1
Registered childminders 27
Nanny/day-care employee (publicly subsidised) 1.9
Informal care (by relatives, friends or others, and parents) 51.3

Source: CNAF, 2012

According to EU-SILC data, in 2010 47% of children attended for 30 or more hours per week. 43% of children under three years attended formal ECEC (excluding childminding); 26% attended for 30 or more hours per week. All children under school age who received formal care spent roughly 30 hours per week in care, on average.

Other forms of care, such as childminding and informal care by relatives, are used less frequently by both under-threes and over-threes. Roughly 20% of preschool age children used this form of care. On average under-threes spent about 23 hours per week in care while over-threes spent about 15 hours per week.

About 46% of children under three are cared for by their parents only, but this is much less common for those over three, at about 4%.

Box 8.5: ECEC arrangements (2010)

Proportion of all children age 0-2 in ELCC arrangements:[471]
Formal: 0 hours (58%), 1-29 hours (17%); 30 or more (26%)
Average hours per week: 30.4
Other: 0 hours (80%), 1-29 hours (13%); 30 or more (8%)
Average hours per week: 22.7
Parents: 46%

Proportion of all children age three to compulsory school age in ELCC arrangements:
Formal: 0 hours (6%), 1-29 hours (47%); 30 or more (47%)
Average hours per week: 29.4
Other: 0 hours (77%), 1-29 hours (20%); 30 or more (3%)
Average hours per week: 15.1
Parents only: 4%

Out-of-school leisure centres serve about 13% of children age three to six years on Wednesdays, after school, and during short vacations.[472]

It is common in France for parents to combine formal ECEC of their children with informal care arrangements.[473] This may not always be due to preference but to the lack of available places. The public crèches are popular among parents, particularly dual earner parents with higher education levels, but demand currently outstrips availability. Despite the fact that formal ECEC in all its forms is highly publicly subsidised, parents with lower incomes often choose informal arrangements over formal ECEC due to cost factors.[474]

8.9 System of quality assurance in ECEC

8.9.1 Inspection, monitoring and quality assurance

  • ECEC settings are monitored through regular inspection. The national agency Protection maternelle et infantile (or PMI) inspects childcare services and education inspectors are responsible for monitoring preschools.

The PMI is responsible for monitoring all ECEC services outside the school system. Settings are regulated for capacity and building requirements, child to staff ratios and group size as well as staff qualifications and parental involvement. Crèches are not required to follow a curriculum but they must set out social and educational goals for children. Other childcare settings must describe plans for their services and the care and well-being of children.[475] In crèches, the maximum child to staff ratio is five children per adult for infants and eight per adult for toddlers. In jardins d'énfants, the ratio for children over three is 15 per adult. Childminders may take a maximum of four children.

Childminding regulations have increased professionalisation in the sector since 2000. All childminders are required to be licensed, although some remain unregulated. Childminders are approved by the Conseil Général of their local area for a period of three years and are trained by the PMI.[476] Childminders are allowed to look after one to three children at once and must undertake a minimum of 120 hours of training.[477] The PMI is obligated to support and train childminders.

Early education programmes are supervised by the Inspecteurs de l'Education Nationale (IEN). Education inspectors in charge of primary schools, including preschool education, evaluate teachers through observation and discussion every three to four years. All preschools follow the same national curriculum. The framework emphasises school-readiness, language and writing skills. At the end of the last year, teachers produce a report for each child which continues to the end of primary education. Class sizes are large, about 26 in 2007, which precludes a more play-based approach. Preschools do not have a maximum child to staff ratio but additional funding is available to reduce class sizes to no more than 25 children.[478]

8.9.2 Workforce qualifications

The ECEC workforce consists of teachers and assistants in the school system, including the école maternelles; and children's nurses, nursing assistants and educators in the centre-based services. In childcare settings such as crèches and haltes-garderies, children's nurses have been predominant, but the proportion of child educators has increased.

Teachers at all levels of education in the public sector, including the école maternelle, belong to the State civil service. Since 2010/2011, all teachers, including pre-primary, are required to hold a Master's degree. Previously, only a Bachelor's degree was required.[479] Teachers are trained for the needs of primary schools, rather than the specific needs of preschool age children.[480]

Box 8.6: ECEC occupations[481]

Children's nurses (Puéricultrices)
Child educators (Éducateurs de jeunes enfants)
Nursing assistants (Auxiliaires de puériculture)
Teachers in the école maternelle (Professeurs des écoles)
Child assistants (auxiliary staff in the école maternelle)

Qualifications for staff in other ECEC settings are relevant diplomas (e.g. nurse or educator). All public settings are required to have at least 50% of the staff qualified to the specified level (see table 8.3). A further 25% of staff must have qualifications related to health, social work or leisure.[482]

Table 8.3: ECEC workforce qualifications

Type of provision Staff title Pre-service education required Qualification level
Childminding Assistante maternelle 120 hours training Certificate
Crèche Puéricultrice (child nurse) Nurse or mid-wife diploma (Bacc. + 3) + 1 year specialisation State diploma
Éducateur de jeunes enfants (educator) 3 years in post Bacc. in special training centres Tertiary university diploma B
Auxiliary staff A one-year formation with on-the-job training Professional diploma level
École maternelle Professeur des écoles (teacher) 3-year university degree + 2 years professional education, 2/3 of which will be a practicum and one-third tertiary level (training college) education Masters degree
ATSEM (child assistants) Secondary vocational level certificate in early childhood studies CAP Certificate

Source: Moss & Bennett, 2010.

8.10 Historical overview of ECEC policy[483]

1880s école maternelles included in the French educational system as part of French nation-building and language dissemination

1888 First preschool curriculum for école maternelles

1909 Pregnant working women become entitled to eight weeks leave

1913 Low-income mothers receive maternity benefit Post-1945: Crèches, previously the responsibility of charitable organisations, became part of the state welfare system. Improved paid maternity leave

1977 Parental leave scheme introduced

1980 - 1983 Responsibility for crèches was decentralised to the commune (municipality)

1985 Creation of the childrearing benefit

1986 Funding introduced for communes to found a greater diversity of services: crèches, as well as part-time services, childminding and childminding networks

1994 Family law increases childcare allowances and tax concessions

2000 Introduction of 'micro-crèches' (small groups of childminders working in the same residence); reform of regulation of crèches to increase flexibility

2001 Introduction of paternity leave

2004 Extra childrearing benefit (in the form of Infant Welcome benefit) - 'supplement for the freedom of choice to work or not'

8.11 Conclusion

ECEC provision in France is guided by the principle of universality in that the system should give access for all children irrespective of background. Accordingly, ECEC provision is strongly publicly subsidised with income-related fees, making ECEC available at relatively low cost for low-income families.

At the same time it is a split system that differentiates between preschools (école maternelles) for three to six year olds and childcare for the younger children. There is a great number of different types of childcare services and organisation and funding of this ECEC system is highly complex.

In recent years there has been a steadily growing demand for ECEC places for under-threes leading to bottlenecks in the supply. Proposals to meet demand have included government schemes to encourage women to work as childminders and discussion of loosening regulations on the minimum of qualified staff in crèches from 50% to 40% and increasing the maximum number of children per crèche by 20%. Equally there is debate on increasing the number of children a childminder can look after from three to four.

These trends have also led to debate about the quality of ECEC provision. Recent developments in ECEC policy include a requirement (as of the 2010/2011 school year) for teachers to gain a Master's degree before entering the profession. This includes teachers providing preschool education.[484]

Changing working patterns of parents with long and inflexible hours have also led to discussion of extending opening hours beyond ten hours a day to meet working parents' needs.


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