Inter-agency strategies in early childhood education to counter social exclusion
This chapter discusses the provision of early childhood education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in six European countries: Belgium (Flanders), Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland and Spain. ‘Early childhood education’ is used in a broad sense to include all educational measures targeted at children under the compulsory school age. In practice, however, it is often difficult to disentangle educational measures from broader childcare provision. Such provision addresses a diverse set of objectives, including promoting the educational and social development of young children and facilitating the access of parents to employment or training, either as ends in themselves or as a means of countering social exclusion. While some services (particularly pre-school provision in mainstream primary schools) are clearly ‘educational’ in focus, other provision, such as play-groups, often incorporates an emphasis on educational development in a broader sense. Provision in the six European countries entails a combination of these ‘welfare’ and ‘education’ functions. The extent to which these two perspectives facilitate inter-agency co-operation will be discussed in the remainder of this chapter.