Briefing paper

Early years care and education

1 Oct 2007

Children learn and develop through a combination of experiences, within and outside the family home. This Policy Brief explores the distinction that is often made about the role of care and education in children’s services and highlights the importance of the interwoven nature of care and education. For the purpose of this Policy Brief, ‘children’s services’ is used as the inclusive phrase for child care and preschool/kindergarten for children aged birth to school entry.

Why is this issue important?

When considering care and education for young children, it is often assumed that this refers to separate and distinctive entities of children’s services, focused either on the provision of child care or preschool/ kindergarten. This distinction between care and education is misleading – children are learning constantly, regardless of the setting (Siraj-Blatchford, 2007). 'Every moment in which an adult provides care to a young infant is a moment rich with learning' (Lally, 2007). Segregation of the provision of care and education into service ‘types’ therefore has short and long term consequences for children, families and the economy at large (Elliot, 2006; McCain & Mustard, 1999). 

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