In order to ensure high quality of the project outputs the project partners included pilot testing of the outputs to the projects activities.
For the pilot testing we chose participants in a way that we would cover all different target groups (trained ECEC professionals with interest in further education; ECEC professionals in initial learning and teachers/trainers). The pilot testing in each country was for at least two groups of 8 people.
- pilot testing in the UK: participants were people interested in becoming a nurse, often from disadvantaged backgrounds , trainers
- pilot testing in Greece: participants were students of the University of West Attice studying to become ECEC
- professionals and ECEC professionals in Athens’ preschools
- pilot testing in the Czech Republic: ECEC professionals (especially not so experienced ones in the beginning of their careers)
- pilot testing in Belgium: bachelor ECEC programme teachers and professionals in childcare
- pilot testing in Sweden: ECEC professionals
- pilot testing in Spain: ECEC professionals
In general, in the partner countries of the project childcare workers in all facilities of family or group based childcare, need to have a more extensive education than the requalification course existing in the Czech Republic and than the ProChil course (mostly it is vocational education of a 2 years duration or even a university degree).
For example in Flanders vocational training can be attained in secondary education or adult training centers. In secondary school it means two years general vocational training with a focus on care and one year specific on childcare for children up to 12 years. The program in adult training centers contains 1 280 hours of training on a variety of subjects in the domain.
Since the regular training of childcare workers takes about 1280 hours, the ProChil course can give little additional information childcare workers didn’t already had in their original training, but for each participant of the pilot testing there were some parts of the training which they found useful.
The professionals in the focus groups found it very interesting to debate about the core of training childcare professionals. Looking at the learning materials and activities, the professionals saw a huge emphasis on care. Which immediately provoked a discussion about the attention to care and pedagogic and how time between these two should be divided. Teachers in the bachelor program found that there should have been more emphasis on pedagogics instead of on care, but practitioners disagreed, claiming that professionals who don’t know the basics of care aren’t able to function properly on the work floor.
For some participants in the focus groups, observation is not enough present in the course. Observation means more than just looking at children, but it entails also reflection and postponement of judgement. It is coherent with a holistic view on children and is key for a child-oriented practice instead of a professional-oriented one. Observation is a starting point for practitioners. It means you pick up signals from children, you accept the signals without judgement, try to understand the signal and where it comes from while looking at the bigger picture. Acting on the signal is only the last step after this reflection process. The practitioners and teachers in the focus groups felt this wasn’t enough present in the course although they also questioned whether it is at all possible to really coach new professionals for this within only 80 hours. That is why they especially praised the Born to socialize methodology presented as an Annex to the course.
In some focus groups the representatives of the target group agreed that the course lacks the topic of cooperation with parents. Although parents are the primary caregivers for the children in childcare, no attention at all was given to the ways to communicate and collaborate with parents. This is a missed opportunity and implicitly leaves no room for parents, while they are a key factor in successful childcare.