Barcelona Targets for Early Childhood Education and Care: a chance to create foundations for lifelong learning and wellbeing

In December 2022, the Council Recommendation on early childhood education and care: the Barcelona targets for 2030 was adopted by the member states. As part of the European Care Strategy, these Barcelona Targets update targets for child participation in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), originally set in 2002. ECEC can make a great difference in a child’s life, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized.  

The new Barcelona Targets are: 

  • at least 45% of children below the age of three participate in early childhood education and care – with specific targets for Member States that have not reached the 2002 goals  
  • at least 96% of children between the age of three and the starting age of compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education and care 

The First Years First Priority (FYFP) campaign, of which EPHA is an associate partner, welcomes these new targets as an opportunity to develop high-quality ECEC services, while also working towards the professionalisation of ECEC staff. The FYFP campaign now encourages all member states to try to reach or exceed these targets, to invest in ECEC staff training, capacity, recruitment and retention, and to pay attention to participation among the most vulnerable and marginalised children. 

In addition, the campaign would ask the member states to pay attention to the following points:  

  • Implement ambitious national plans to increase participation in quality ECEC services for all children – especially children under three – with specific targets for ensuring the participation of children facing poverty, exclusion and disadvantage.
  • Increase public investment in quality ECEC that is available and accessible for all children, and especially children under three. 
  • Develop national strategies to ensure quality ECEC services and to increase the professionalisation of ECEC staff through a minimum standard of qualification, continuous professional development and improved working conditions. 
  • Expand the scope of national collection of disaggregated data on access to quality ECEC for children, especially for children under three and who experience poverty, social exclusion, marginalisation/segregation and multiple disadvantage. This requires disaggregated data on the degree of access to, and benefits of, ECEC for the most vulnerable groups, in particular children living in extreme poverty, children with disabilities, refugee and (undocumented) migrant children and children from ethnic minorities (especially Roma children as the largest ethnic minority subject to exclusion). It should include disaggregated data on children aged 0-3 and 3-6 and also on rural/urban or regional disparities. 
  • Measure progress explicitly through a national monitoring and evaluation mechanism built on existing progress indicators, integrated into the Child Guarantee action plans, with scope to develop further progress indicators 

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