Seminar Four 02.06.08

This seminar was organised in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute. It set out to explore the operation of the for-profit market in the provision of early childhood care and education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Hasina Ebrahim from the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal was the first speaker and reported on a study she conducted among private day nurseries in Durban, Natal:

'Conflicting discourses of private nursery entrepreneurs in KwaZulu-Natal.'

To see the PowerPoint presentation she employed follow this link:

Ebrahim presentation ICMEC-ODI SEMINAR 2 JUNE 2008

Dr Marito Garcia, lead human development economist at the World Bank's Human Development Department, Africa Region, asked the question; "who provides" in an exploration of the role of the private market in early childhood development in Africa.'

To see the PowerPoint presentation he employed follow this link:

Garcia presentation ECD Book Launch ICMEC-ODI Seminar London June 2-08

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion, after which delegates at this seminar were joined by others for the launch of a new book produced earlier this year by the World Bank: Africa's Future, Africa's Challenge: early Childhood Care and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Edited by Marito Garcia, Alan Pence and Judith Evans, all this book's chapters were contributed by World Bank staff.

Dr Caroline Harper, ODI Research Fellow and Programme Leader, Social Development, chaired its UK launch, while Professor Helen Penn, Co-director of ICMEC and Dr Hasina Ebrahim provided responses to Dr Garcia's introduction to the issues discussed in the book.

All presentations as well as the lively discussion forming part of this launch can be found by following links to video casts on the ODI website by looking under the heading 'recent events.'

Academics, policymakers and analysts, journalists and students were joined by workers from a range of international development agencies for this event which took place at ODI's headquarters in Waterloo.

Posted by Eva Lloyd, 5 June 2008

Seminar Three 12.05.08 - The mixed economy of childcare and the needs of disadvantaged children

At the third seminar in the ICMEC international seminar series, it was the turn of a Government representative to set the Government's approach to the mixed economy of childcare in a wider context. Graham Archer, Deputy Director Childcare at the Department for Children, Schools and Families spoke on the topic "Childcare and early years provision in a diverse market - the Government's approach."

As part of a wide-ranging presentation, he focused on developments following the 2004 launch of the Ten Year Strategy for Childcare and reiterated the Government's position that "The diverse market is the only game in town" while justifying this approach by emphasising the strengths of the private for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, such as their flexibility.

As this seminar paid special attention to the needs of disadvantaged children and their families, Graham Archer explained the Government's plans for widening access by means of the Affordable Childcare Campaign. This aims to increase the take-up of tax credits and influence the sector with regards to positioning childcare within the wider child poverty agenda. Ultimately, Local Authorities would have to take the lead in realising a sustainable childcare market under their 'childcare sufficiency' duty contained in the 2006 Childcare Act.

In a thoughtful response, Ivana La Valle, Co-director of the Families & Children Group at the National Centre for Social Research compared the Government's stated position with the findings from a series of recent Government-commissioned studies conducted by NatCen. Her presentation addressed three questions:

  • Early years education (EYE) and childcare: what has been achieved in the past decade?
  • What remains to be done?
  • Can Local Authorities do it?

Their findings highlight that there is a mismatch between childcare availability and the working patterns of low-paid women in particular. Distrust of tax credits had been generated by initial serious problems with their administration. Ivana addressed the needs of disadvantaged children throughout her presentation.

Issues raised in the discussion that followed the two presentations included:

  • the social stratification reflected in the two childcare markets that have emerged for the children of employed parents as opposed to disadvantaged children
  • the gender issues underlying the Government's encouragement of mothers into the workforce
  • the need for continuity of experience for young children in early education and childcare, which is threatened by business closures
  • the problems experienced by small childcare businesses in remaining sustainable
  • the way in which the Canadian City of Ontario local authority supports and regulates the local childcare market
  • strategies which the Child Poverty Unit, a joint DCSF/DWP initiative, intends to develop to encourage the uptake of Children's Centres Services.

The PowerPoint presentations by the two speakers can be found by following these links.

For Graham Archer's presentation go to:

ICMEC presentation Graham Archer DCSF 12 May 08

For Ivana La Valle's presentation go to:

ICMEC sem 12 May 08.ppt Ivana La Valle respondent

posted by Eva Lloyd, 13 May 2008

Seminar Two 14.03.08

Professor Helen Penn, Co-director of ICMEC, chaired and introduced the second international ICMEC seminar on the topic:

"Childcare quality in the mixed economy of welfare: an economist's view".

This took place at UEL's Docklands Campus on Friday 14 March 2008 and the economist in question was Professor Gordon Cleveland. Gordon Cleveland is Associate Chair and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Management, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, where since 1992 he has been working in the field of childcare. He has written background economic papers for the OECD as part of their 20 nation review of early childhood education and care. His most recent work in Canada attempts to calculate variations in quality across the various childcare sectors, and relate these to costs. Further information about Professor Cleveland's work for OECD and his recent publications is available at

The Main Presentation

Can we put a price on quality? Was the question asked by Professor Cleveland, on the basis of an analysis of the data from four separate data sets gathered through studies of for-profit and not-for-profit childcare provision in Canada. This research attempted to calculate variations in quality across these two childcare sectors, and relate these to costs. This three year study by Gordon Cleveland, Barry Forer, Douglas Hyatt, Christa Japel and Michael Krashinsky attempted to establish the factors within non-profit childcare operations which were responsible for higher quality provision. The full report on which the presentation was based can be found by following the link on the childcare policy website.  Evidence was provided that difficulties arose from defining what constitutes 'quality'. There are various measures of 'quality' and judgements regarding 'quality' are not consistent. Whether quality childcare may be achieved in a mixed economy of childcare was debated. 

Response and Analysis

In his response to Professor Cleveland's presentation, Professor Peter Moss also highlighted the notion and definition of 'quality' as problematic as well as critiquing the impact of a neo-liberal approach to policy-making in social care in the UK. He referred to his recently completed review for the Bertelsmann Foundation, the largest non-profit Foundation in Germany, exploring two models for the development of early childhood education and care services. This report can be found at or by following this link: Peter Moss presentation.

Peter Moss is Professor of Early Childhood at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. His national and cross-national research since the late sixties is reflected in a wide range of publications on early childhood, childhood, early childhood provision, children’s services, gender equity, children's position in early childhood settings and issues around care. Between 1986 and 1996 he was Co-ordinator of the European Commission Network on Childcare and other Measures to Reconcile Employment and Family Responsibilities. His most recent book, co-authored with Gunilla Dahlberg, is Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Education (Routledge, 2005). Further information about his work and publications is available from the Institute of Education website.

Points made by members of the audience

Discussion points raised by the audience of policymakers and analysts, childcare managers, trade union representatives, journalists and academics included:

  • A possible reduction in the 'conceptual split' between care and education
  • Difficulties in treating 'quality' as a 'commodity'
  • Perception of 'quality' problematic and as subjective  
  • Monitoring quality as a contested activity
  • Evidence for children experiencing poor quality childcare in centres
  • Market mechanisms to deliver quality debatable
  • Critical and analytical thought and debate required regarding private for-profit care and non-profit provision.

Posted by Karen Horsley, 27 March 2008

Seminar One 03.12.07

Surplus or profit: the case of public funding for private childcare provision

On Monday 3 December 2007 the first seminar was held in the ICMEC international seminar series. An invited audience of delegates from the private-for-profit and not-for-profit and from the public sector attended UEL's Docklands campus alongside policymakers, academics and journalists. Interested in the mixed economy of childcare, they came to hear and discuss presentations on the subject of 'Surplus or profit: the case of public funding for private childcare provision' and take part in a discussion.

The impact of the London Development Agency's Childcare Affordability Programme was analysed by LDA Head of Childcare, Denise Burke, and William Laing, CEO of social care research agency Laing & Buisson, discussed the question 'Is childcare safe in private sector hands?' In her role as discussant, ICMEC Co-Director Helen Penn responded to the presentations.

To read their presentations follow these links: BurkeLaingPenn.

A brief report on the discussion that followed the presentations can be found by following the link.

Posted by Eva Lloyd, 5 December 2007