The Childcare Quality Code (17 December 2003) establishes a loose framework to guide professionals working with children in order to ensure high-quality care for all children. All childcare settings must comply with it. The code aims to :
• guarantee a care system that takes into account the multiplicity of needs of children, in particular those concerning their physical, psychological, social, cognitive and emotional development ;
• ensure, by determining common fundamental principles, coherence and continuity in the care practices of the different childcare settings ;
• stimulate and encourage a dynamic process of reflection on professional practices in the field of high-quality childcare.
Every centre- and home-based childcare setting must draw up a childcare plan. Several non-binding support documents provide guidance on how to draw up these plans. For example, there is a 2002 educational reference work: Minding Very Young Children – Go for quality (Accueillir les Tout-petits – Oser la qualité). Following the implementation of the Childcare Quality Code, other support documents pertaining to the early childhood sector were distributed to childcare settings in 2004.
The following three documents aim to help childcare settings draw up and develop their educational plans. They build on the content of the Childcare Quality Code from three angles.
• Meeting the families (À la rencontre des familles). This includes the first five points of reference: preparing for the first session, establishing and consolidating a relationship of trust with the parents, managing daily transitions, acknowledging and dealing with the experience of separation, and dealing with the end of the stay.
• Meeting the children (À la rencontre des enfants). This includes six other points of reference: adjusting the material environment, the interior and exterior space, ensuring continuity in reception, giving the child an active place, acknowledging the child’s emotions and supporting his or her self-awareness, differentiating practices to individualise activities and link them, and adequately supporting interactions between children.
• Support for the activity of professionals (Soutien à l’activité des professionnel-le-s). This includes the final points of reference: developing conditions that ensure a high quality of professional life and implementing the educational plan, and supporting a process of continuous training. Ensuring a high quality of care also entails fostering relations with associations and local authorities.
Areas of learning and development
According to the Childcare Quality Code, four principles of educational psychology must be respected :
• nurturing the most favourable reception conditions for the child’s development and fostering the child’s desire to discover by organising living spaces adapted to children’s needs ;
• monitoring the quality of the relationship between childminder and child ;
• allowing the child to express himself or herself personally and spontaneously, thus fostering the development of self-confidence and autonomy ;
• contributing to the development of the child’s socialisation, taking into account his or her age, by favouring group activities using the principles of solidarity and cooperation.
The Childcare Quality Code gives certain indications as to the pedagogical approaches to be implemented: organising spaces so that they are adapted to the child’s needs, encouraging the development of group work, organising groups in such a way as to promote the smooth running of activities and the establishment of a good relationship between child and childminder, making room for children to use their initiative and preserving the notion of free time, and ensuring a healthy life for children.
Each childcare setting, in accordance with the psychopedagogical guidelines mentioned above and the objectives of the Childcare Quality Code, determines its educational plan and implements a pedagogical approach of its choice (Pikler approach, interactive approach, ecological approach, Reggio Emilia approach, etc.).
As children can attend childcare from a very young age (i.e. before they are 1 year old), partnership with parents, professionalism, respect for the child’s rhythms and well-being, and adapted activities are encouraged, without evaluation of the child’s outcomes.
Nevertheless, medical supervision of children’s weight and growth, as well as language and psychomotor development, is required. The results of this monitoring are recorded in each child’s notebook.