[Göttingen, 14.04.2023] “This is not a scientific study, but a report from everyday life, which is intended to give food for thought. It is intended for everyone and is intended to contribute to the discussion,” Daniel Piekorz, author of the report, classifies his publication and elaborates: “It refers to the situation in Göttingen, which is probably illustrative for the whole of Lower Saxony.” At the heart of the report is a data survey of 57 facilities on staff absences due to illness and their impact during the period December 5-16, 2022, as well as 25 qualitative interviews with educational staff, administrators, teachers, daycare center managers, and parents.
Initially, the basic situation in the municipal and independent daycare centers in Göttingen does not seem to be too bad: the basic offer, the agreed opening hours, and the available care concepts are predominantly rated positively by the interviewed persons. “But as soon as it comes to the actual events, the picture, unfortunately, changes,” Piekorz argues. Both the survey in the daycare centers and the interviews show a large discrepancy between theory and practice – between the contractually agreed care times and the care that actually takes place, between the pedagogical concept and everyday life. The results of the study suggest that, from the point of view of those affected – i.e., families as well as providers and employees – the educational mandate of daycare centers embodied in the law cannot, or can only partially, be fulfilled.
As an example, data on staff absences due to illness and their effects were collected for the period from December 5 to 16, 2022. Due to illness alone, the workforce was reduced by around 21% during this period. Further staff capacity was reduced for several reasons, including vacation, care of sick children, and care of close relatives. This means that at least 25% of the personnel capacity was missing during the period under consideration. The result: citywide, childcare services had to be reduced or even canceled for nearly 180 days of care during those two weeks.
The qualitative interviews also show that staff shortages are seen as one of the biggest problems. “The implementation of care concepts requires space and concentration, which is not possible if gaps have to be constantly plugged. Employees can neither live out their passion for the profession nor fulfill their own demands. This, in turn, is a driver of sick leave, which leads to a negative spiral – and massively damages the attractiveness of the profession,” Piekorz adds. However, the author emphasizes that more staff is not necessarily the right solution for every facility – for example if the space is already cramped or suffers from poor acoustics.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic solution either. I recommend a rapid flexibilization of the general conditions, coupled with an increase in financial resources. Parents and daycare center employees must be allowed to independently implement pragmatic solutions locally. And of course, the attractiveness of the preschool teacher profession should be increased – through better general conditions, dual vocational training, and outsourcing of non-educational activities,” Piekorz summarizes his recommendations to the city of Göttingen and the state. Piekorz sees another lever in the role of communities. His thought-provoking comment: communities should be developed into enablers that support the independent providers and take on central tasks. In this way, administrative tasks in the childcare centers could be minimized and the focus could be put back on education and care.
“As a company rooted in Göttingen, we have a great interest in ensuring that our employees’ children are reliably and well cared for. We have prepared this report free of charge and would be very pleased if the thoughts it provokes could contribute to improving the care situation in Göttingen and beyond,” adds Dr. Marko Weinrich, management spokesman for Arineo GmbH. After all, Weinrich said, today’s children are potential employees of tomorrow – the better the care they receive today, the better they will be able to contribute to tomorrow’s society.
The report was publicly presented to the Youth Welfare Committee of the City of Göttingen on April 13, 2023.
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