Marking the beginning of a new academic year, the European Commission has published a report on the European countries’ progress towards reducing child poverty and social exclusion and promoting child well-being. The report analyses national policies and investment strategies regarding the implementation of the 2013 EU Recommendation on “Investing in children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage” and proposes a series of recommendations linking them to the recent European Commission establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights.

According to the report, significantly more progress has been made in early childhood education sector (ECE), including improvements in the quality of ECE provision, than in any other of the education areas with progress in over half of the countries. However, initiatives to reduce costs for households and increase provision of free places in childcare and pre-school were evident only in few countries. In recent years, ETUCE member organisation across Europe (e.g. Poland and the UK) have denounced increased privatisation trends in the sector of early childhood education as it deepens the socio-economic gap between children and affects their future educational opportunities.

The report demonstrates a worrisome situation in the rest of education sector: only eight countries (Denmark, Slovenia, Austria, France, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, and Bulgaria) have somewhat improved access to quality education while in some others (Finland, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, and Romania), the policies on providing access for all children have become even weaker. For example, in Poland, compulsory general education has been shortened which, according to the study, is likely to have an impact on the inequality of outcomes, on costs and on the situation of teachers. Report’s recommendations draw a particular attention to migrant children and suggest that the European Commission develops good standards for the integration of migrant children and ensures their access to education and health systems.

ETUCE welcomes the report’s recommendations and warns that the insufficient investment in education and training seriously undermines the right to quality education for all and has a detrimental effect on equality and social inclusion across the EU.