Zoom-in
Project
home and care Landshut, Germany
Edit 05 September 2022
by FISCHER Joerg, UIA-Expert

Alternative training models in childcare - ZOOM-IN

Course in pedagogy
In the home and care project, a new form of childcare is being developed that enables mothers with their children and childminders to live together under one roof. The mothers work in the care and education sector or strive for a corresponding job through additional qualifications. For this purpose, alternative training models are being developed and offered by the Academy for Social Pedagogy of the Seligenthal Landshut School Foundation  (Fachakademie Seligenthal).

This Zoom In documents how this is dealt with and what experience has already been gained.
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The field of child day care has undergone massive changes for several decades. The introduction of the legal entitlement to have a place in a child day care centre - initially in 1996 for children between the ages of 3 and school entry and since August 2013 for children from the age of one - resulted in a massive expansion of child day care offers. This expansion was dynamized by families requesting and using these offers more and more frequently especially for young children under the age of 3 which means that the group of children in day care centres is becoming more and more heterogeneous.

This not only requires additional staff to create the places that are still missing, but also qualified specialists who are confronted with ever increasing demands on their pedagogical work. In addition, child day care is no longer considered just a care offer for children of working parents, but more than ever it embodies the first place of institutional education in a child's life. Both factors - the relief for families by having ensured care for their child and the importance of child day care with a view to early education processes that are provided there - showed their high social relevance during the corona pandemic in particular.

The high demand for education, which has emerged in recent years, is also associated with increasing needs in the entire child day care system, but above all with new skills and knowledge required from the pedagogical staff. This became evident in all German federal states at the latest with the introduction of the educational plans at the beginning of the 2000s, in which subject areas and pedagogical objectives were described that are to be implemented in child day care.

These central changes and a large number of associated developments have led to the fact that the field of child day care is in a sustainable process of change that will continue in the near future. Especially in view of the demographic change and the already increasing need for skilled workers, there are many reasons to break new ground in the training of childcare staff.

Herbalogy
Herbology in the subject of health education: clear and true to life (Source: Fachakademie Seligenthal)

A look at the figures in Germany shows the need for action:

  • From 2007 to 2020 the number of children in day care for increased from 3,015,492 to 3,888,732 children.
  • In the case of children under the age of three, the number rose from 320,000 to 829,000 children in day care in the same period.
  • While in 2007 35% of the parents of children under the age of three wanted childcare, the number increased to 49% in 2019.
  • The proportion of children with full-time places (eight hours a day) rose from 47% to 54%.
  • The proportion of children who are non-German native speakers with a migration background in child day care rose from 51% to 61%.

This was associated with an enormous increase in staff. Some figures express this development:

  • From 2007 to 2020, childcare staff increased from 459,000 to over 830,000 employees.
  • The number of day care workers, ie people who offer care for children under the age of three outside of kindergartens, rose from 33,000 to 45,000 employees.
  • Among the day care workers, the proportion of employees with relevant professional training fell from 34% to 31%.
  • At the same time, however, the proportion of employees with a specialist pedagogical qualification or at least one qualification course of minimum 160 hours increased from 43% to 89%.

The UIA project focuses precisely on child day care and its related staff because the need for personnel in this sector is expected to increase significantly in the future. Reasons for this are:

  • The higher average age of the staff and the associated increased number of people who went into retirement. In 2020, almost 18% of the educational staff in kindergartens were at least 55 years old, while in 2007 it was just under 8%.
  • In addition, the gap between actual offers and demands from parents, especially for under-threes in West Germany, shows that a large number of places will still have to be created in the future.

 

Some things that appear new and unusual have a history. This is also the case with the different training models to become a socio-pedagogically qualified specialist, which the Seligenthal Academy offers today within the framework of the UIA project "home and care".

Fachakademie
The Fachakademie (Source: Fachakademie Seligenthal)

Some things that appear new and unusual have a history. This is also the case with the different training models to become a socio-pedagogically qualified specialist, which the Seligenthal Academy offers today within the framework of the UIA project "home and care".

To understand this, one must imagine how training took place just a few years ago. Typically, 15-year-old girls applied for a training place at the specialist academy. For personal or family reasons, it was clear to them that there could be only one career path for them, namely that of an educator. The young women then completed their general school education at the age of 16, graduating with the intermediate school leaving certificate. With great commitment, they then underwent the five-year training program, and by the age of 21 they were already state-certified educators. It was very rare to see a young person drop out of their training and decide to take a different path. The teachers were able to adjust to a very homogeneous group in terms of age, gender, previous knowledge, etc. The work in the social pedagogical centres was also very successful. But the work in the socio-educational institutions was also "easy" to a certain extent, because heterogeneity played only a minor role here as well. It was clear that a facility opens at 7:30 a.m. and usually closes at 2:00 p.m.. The educators all had similar professional biographies, and the majority of the children came from well-sheltered homes. They knew who they were, who they had in front of them, and how to do a "good job." 
Around 2010, Ele Schöfthaler from the association Zak, the person who came up with the idea of the "home and care" project, approached the Seligenthal Academy and asked for the academy's support for her project. She presented a project that was previously unknown in Landshut, the so-called large day care, where up to 10 children are cared for by day care workers without specialized training. In addition, the opening hours of these facilities also differed from those of regular day care centres. Children could be brought in as early as six o'clock in the morning and, if necessary, they would even be allowed to stay overnight at the facility. The uproar among the teaching staff at the specialist academy was great: don't such large day care centres undermine the value of regular education? What value does family still have if the children are given 24 hours and longer out of the house? Is it even allowed to support this?

In the process of dealing with this idea, however, it soon became clear that the challenges of the time had to be met. Landshut, which is located in the suburbs of the Munich metropolis, is a good living alternative for many people with lower incomes; distances are short and rents are still reasonably affordable. You can afford to live there if you are willing to work in jobs with unusual hours, such as shift work in factories or at the airport. However, this is only possible for single parents - often women - if they know that their children are taken care of. But this is often not possible with well-paid jobs. A well-paid stewardess with one or more small children can no longer pursue her profession if there is no supportive family system. Should she leave her three-year-old child alone for 36 hours? Or should shift workers who work night shifts leave their young children alone at home overnight? Only few people want to do so. Unemployment, social decline, poverty in old age can be the result, and that only because there were no childcare facilities to support them at the time.

The understanding of the special challenges these people face grew, and the academy set out with the Zak association to train specialist staff for the large day care project. It was a path that presented the teaching team with completely new challenges. Suddenly, people wanted to be trained who were much older (sometimes even older than some of the teachers), who had many more life experience, some of which were traumatic, some of whom had very convoluted professional biographies, who had to work during their training in order to generate a living for themselves and their children, who had a migration background, and who had difficulties with the German language and Western culture, especially with regard to different education, morals and values.

The most important question was: what do people with their diverse backgrounds need to become a social pedagogical educator? This approach reversed the previous principle. Because in the past the only question was whether the young trainees met our conditions for the training. And so, slowly over the years, factors emerged that can now be called success factors in the project:

  • We respect people's individual skills. We adapt our organization to the people, not the people to the organization.
  •  We create training models that take place outside normal school hours.
  • We make use of all legal possibilities to enable interested people of any age, religion, origin, etc. to find a training place.
  • By doing so, we are extremely flexible in our framework conditions. 
  • We support people by providing assistance that goes beyond the norm. For example, we offer German language courses, mediate in case of problems, and are in close contact with employers.
Image 1: Course in pedagogy (Source: Fachakademie Seligenthal)
Course in pedagogy (Source: Fachakademie Seligenthal)

Thus, since 2019, three alternative training models have emerged within the framework of the "home and care" project:

  • Selicare 1: In this offer participants are given the opportunity to be trained at the school as a pedagogical assistant. This training is equivalent to the degree of "state-certified childcare worker". This course includes hours of instruction and practical work in day care facilities. This course is suitable for interested persons who cannot participate in Selicare 2 or 3 their low education level.
  • Selicare 2: This course is based on the regular training course to become a "state-certified childcare worker". However, it takes place at unusual times: Thursday evenings, Friday afternoons, and on and off Saturdays. The trainees can work full time and at the same time complete their training without any additional costs. The course is suitable for trainees who, for various reasons, do not (yet) feel confident about doing the actual educator training. After a successful completion of Selicare 2 they have the possibility to continue with Selicare 3.
  • Selicare 3: is the "original model" of the academy's project participation. There, women are qualified to become an educators in just one year. The course takes place on Saturdays, for a total of approximately 30 Saturdays/ weekends between September and July. It enables participants to pass the state examination and they can then complete their qualification in a further year in the so-called professional internship. This course is only feasible for the participants of "home and care" because of the special framework of the project to have a day care offer for their children on Saturdays.

Especially Selicare 2 and 3 are in great demand. These are feasible options for single mothers to learn a viable profession, which offers many opportunities, not only in times of a shortage of educators. Moreover it closes the circle: More and more women are now working as qualified professionals in the large day care centres. They are proud of what they have achieved despite sometimes challenging circumstances and pass on the thought "You can do it too!" to people in similar personal situations.

Students
Our participants in Selicare 2: diverse and courageous (Source: Fachakadamie Seligenthal)


 

Today, lived pluralism is a matter of course at the Seligenthal Academy. But there was a long way to go to achieve this. In the beginning regular trainees made the reproach that the new models would give an “undue advantages” to the other trainees. In many conversations, the special burden of the Seli-Care trainees became clear; no one wants to "swap" once they have heard the life stories of the women and learned how these people try to reconcile family, everyday life and training. 
Surprising things also happen in the interaction. For example, a Syrian woman who is being trained in Selicare 2 and has only spoken German for a short time commented on the question of whether a parents' evening on the topic of "children's rights - non-violent upbringing" should be held in the kindergarten: "I don't think such a parents' evening should be held. Because in my cultural circle, educators would lose respect if they spoke out against corporal punishment." One can imagine the irritation of the other students. Immediately a "clash of cultures" is created as in some countries education is done using corporal violence. But reflecting on what the Syrian trainee actually meant by her thought brings understanding for other systems and opens doors for cooperation: The student explains that one must approach parents from other cultures differently with such things that we take for granted, because in some cultures there is a different understanding. We have to make sure that other people can "save face" even in matters of education and we can't just think other attitudes are bad. Together, the group now reflects which topics are sensitive issues and how a meaningful conversation can be engaged with people from other cultures. In this way, the trainees learn to look beyond their own horizons and get a real-life impression of intercultural cooperation. This can certainly be considered a great success when learning content is no longer just book knowledge but has become experiential knowledge. 

Perhaps this leads to a lesson that must be learned anew by every educator at every time: Pedagogy does not serve to teach "unfinished" people (children) to behave like real - i.e. adult - people with the help of very different educational methods. The Danish family therapist Jesper Juul states: "What we understand by education in the traditional sense is not only superfluous, but harmful," for children and adults alike. A vicious circle is thus set in motion, according to Juul, which influences our attitudes in social and educational matters and extends into social and family policy. From this perspective, the fundamental importance of educator training today becomes clear once again. It nourishes the seed for a development that Jesper Juul calls a "quantum leap in the development of humanity," because there is a willingness to view the inviolable right of the individual to the free development of his or her personality neither from a dogmatic nor from an authoritarian point of view. The freedom of the individual is of vital importance for the continued existence of our community, according to an axiom of pluralistic society.

The discussion with the participants in the UIA project "home and care" has given the following insights to the Seligenthal Academy:

  • To what extent does what we do and how we do it serve the free development of the personality of all our trainees when it comes to competences and talents?
  • The way we model education to our trainees will be put it into practice in their own way. This is where it proves whether we understand education as something that has to function according to an "standard recipe" ("old" pedagogy), or whether we find a "personal language" that enables values such as respect for diversity and support of freedom of the individual ("modern" pedagogy).

The project has already taught that the path of personal language has different prerequisites. It needs more time, more openness and honest interest in the other. The idea of knowing "it" better no longer matters. The danger is that some will reject this path as arbitrary, aimless or indecisive. But again, it takes time to come to terms with the new and to discover and live the possibilities that come with it. We should be aware that we as teachers and as future educators are nothing less than contemporary witnesses of this turning point and its co-creators. 

The project highly benefits from having the Seligenthal Academy as project partners because the institution is open to change in education and acknowledge its need. They advise other educational institutions to: be courageous, expand your boundaries, dare to have new experiences and use the opportunity to change the world for the better!

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