"Hitting the wall full-speed with a ride-on toy car"
Dear Mayor Bovenschulte, esteemed members of the citizens‘ assembly, esteemed Senator Aulepp!
„Hitting the wall full-speed with a ride-on toy car“ – that is exactly what you, as those responsible for education policy in Bremen, have achieved in recent years. The main sufferers are our children, parents, and the preschool teachers in Bremen.
Yes, a lot has happened in the field of early childhood education in recent years. Yes, we know that you have created around 5,000 new places for children. However, as parents, we experience every day that this is far from enough.
Despite the massive expansion, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation, there will still be around 5,400 places missing in the city of Bremen alone next year. It is alarming that those responsible in your administration are unable to ensure the legally established right to a place in a daycare center in Bremen for children over 1 year of age. (https://www.laendermonitor.de/fileadmin/files/laendermonitor/laenderprofile/2022/HB_Laenderprofil_2022.pdf )
The reality stands in stark contrast to the noble goals agreed upon in your coalition agreement. The SPD in particular campaigned with improved conditions in the daycare centers in their election program: 100% coverage for 3 to 6-year-olds and 70% for under 3-year-olds were mentioned. However, Bremen has the second highest daycare gap in the country, with 16.8% in the under 3-year-old category and 9.4% for children over 3. This is a poor educational policy record. (https://www.spd-land-bremen.de/Binaries/Binary_5937/SPD-Zukunftsprogramm-public-online.pdf)
We consider this situation unacceptable and urge you to finally think and act in the long term. Scientific studies all over the country emphasize the importance of early childhood education and the consequences of a policy that does not meet its requirements. Early access to good education and educational living environments significantly influences an individual’s life story. Participation, equal opportunities, and development opportunities must be granted to every single child, regardless of their family background.
The current practice is far from this: children are only „kept“, early childhood education is barely implementable, and the entire daily routine is suffering. The actual „normal program“ such as morning circle, joint music-making, sports, or trips have become a „special program“ in recent years. This cannot continue!
We would like to emphasize here that we are NOT putting the performance of the employees in the various daycare centers in Bremen on trial. They are the ones who face the misery every day, who keep the daily routine running somehow, who have been working beyond their own stress limits for a long time to meet the demands of our children. They are the ones who bear the consequences of your wrong decisions and empty promises every day.
Of course, nobody can suddenly conjure up new professional staff overnight, of course new facilities for daycare centers have to be developed or built, and this requires long-term planning – but why hasn’t this happened years ago? Why are you letting the scooter our children are sitting on race unbraked against the wall? The social and political challenge is to drive the quantitative expansion of educational and care offerings and at the same time further develop and secure the quality of pedagogical practice: this has been your task, it is today and it will remain in the future!
In addition, childcare must also be considered in the context of the shortage of skilled workers in all occupational groups: since the summer of 2022 at the latest, promises of care in Bremen are becoming more and more like a lottery. Opening and care times are often reduced at short notice, usually there is only a short email in the morning with the note: „only until 2 pm instead of 4 pm“ – and you still cheer about such a actually bad news, because at least until 2 pm care and thus part of one’s working day is secured. There is never any talk about the hours that have to be made up in the evenings and at the weekends – if possible at all.
Mothers especially compensate for these shortcomings. Inequalities in paid work are thus manifested. Those affected are slowed down in their professional development – they are constantly under stress and exposed to fears for their existence because they cannot reliably fulfill their contractual obligations or a reentry into work is not possible at all. Without a daycare place, no job, without an employer’s confirmation, no chance of a daycare place – a vicious circle in which mothers are especially trapped – so much for your nice election promise of compatibility of family and work. Moreover, in some daycare centers in Bremen it has already become routine to reduce the care time from 4 pm to 3 pm or for children under the age of 3 in general to 2 pm without considering the actual consequences for children who desperately need a social environment in the daycare center, or for working and job-seeking parents whose chances of having a working routine are completely taken away.
In light of the shortage of skilled workers, this development is particularly devastating: fathers and mothers take care of their children at home because the daycare closes earlier, is closed completely, only has emergency service, or simply isn’t open until 4 PM. These fathers and mothers are then missing in hospitals, schools, fire departments, street cleaning, and in all other professional fields!
We have been familiar with your classic explanations for a long time, which excuse the current conditions: the shortage of educators, the household budget, the unexpected dimension of immigration in recent years, etc. NOTHING of this holds up to closer scrutiny, if it is assumed that the education and upbringing of the future generations are our most important resources for the future of our society.
- Invest in a general and APPROPRIATE training compensation!
• BAföG may be a temporary solution, but cannot be a permanent goal
• financing only 50 PiA places (out of over 200 applicants) and part-time training is not enough
• ALL training paths must be compensated
- SIMPLIFY and improve access to early childhood education training
- Start THINKING LONG-TERM and improve the staffing ratio in daycare centers
• the current state is not sustainable for staff and children and has nothing to do with quality (U3: 1:9 / Ü3 – 1:20)
• staff are overworked, and it’s not surprising that so many skilled professionals are leaving the field
• the scientifically recommended staffing ratio of 1:3 in the U3 area and 1:7.5 in the Ü3 area must be politically implemented
- Implement a fast and UNCOMPLICATED refund of fees for cancellations or a financial compensation
• those who are entitled to a place but do not receive it must receive a financial compensation quickly and easily in order to finance other educational opportunities (music, sports, etc.) or private care (babysitter)
• in case of constant care cancellations/emergency services, an automatic refund of fees must be introduced.
Elterninitiative KITAstrophe Bremen
(parents of kids from many daycare centers in Bremen)