06 Quality education in the flexible preschool. Implications for children and teachers with large work teams, large groups of children and open- space environments
Since the beginning of the 1970s, quality early childhood education and care (preschool) has been a national priority in Sweden. Over the years, policy changes such as the marketisation of the welfare system with increased state regulation and a focus on cost- effectiveness and performativity have resulted in modifications to the services offered. Because of its potential impact on children’s learning, wellbeing and development, the preschool environment—as reflected in its spatial design and pedagogical organisation— is considered an important quality indicator. Since the late 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, there has been a tendency towards flexible organisation, with 40–50 young children and a team of 6–8 staff members working together and sharing educational spaces. Taking these reforms as the point of departure, this article examines the rationale for the policy changes and considers their implications for children, teachers and the quality of the preschool education. Data sources include policy documents as well as contemporary research. Findings indicate that policy reforms with shifting pedagogical organisation seem to be proposed and introduced without robust research evidence of the implications for children and teachers.