Tales from the German childcare industry (interesting anecdotes from a professional trip)

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Hey folks,

So I'm going to keep things pretty broad in terms of detail and for those who want stats, I don't have any so you can safely ignore this thread. I really just want to relay information from a person I know who works in childcare in this country and was recently sent to Germany for research on how their system works. I'm basically dealing in anecdotes but there is some interesting information to be gathered none the less.


So to start with, the education system for a childcare worker in Germany is totally different. The level 6 qualification takes 4 years with a large amount of time on work placement, on partial wages. However there are some really serious differences in how they go about this education. In Ireland it is an education of the rules, a study of reports and research about children etc.. In Germany they have some creativity doctrine or some such and the education is entirely about how to behave with children to encourage creativity and learning and is very practical in that sense. It is required that you learn a musical instrument and in respect to one activity, my friend was told students will spend several days learning how they should engage with the child in regard to this activity. No form filling, no bureaucracy, it's all about the children.

For anyone who knows somebody in childcare, you will know that form filling is a significant part of the job. You fill in reports about development and record any falls or incidents. Lots and lots of forms to fill in. In Germany, childcare workers don't fill in forms. Management do.

So here's a few interesting stories from her visit:

1: Doors were unlocked, children were allowed move around the creche unaccompanied and in one case my friend recounted that a few children were in the "construction" room for over an hour without supervision.

2: One incident involved 2 children (about 4/5 years old) having left the building and crossed the street. The childcare work went out and called them back across the street.

3: 4 year olds were creating a rock music project, building a prop guitar from wood provided by a parent (parent involvement is much greater there than here) and these children were being coached in how to drill holes in teh wood with a real life electric drill. She also noted that at one point the drill was left down on a table but no children bothered with it. She was also told that the children helped cut out the guitar with a jigsaw! 4 year olds.

4: She witnessed care ratios of 19:1 and at one point 36:1 when two classes went outside and one of the childcare workers went for a cigarette.

5: A child came up to a childcare worker complaining that another boy had hit him. She said "Well I didn't hit you, so I think you should give out to him instead" - or something to that effect.

6: The children were overall remarkably well behaved in almost all situations.

7: She visited a forest creche and when she asked what measures they have to prevent children going missing, she was told "The rule for the kids is they must be able hear or see me and must tell us where they are going". This creche had no fence or wall, it was just in a forest. Apparently they haven't lost a child yet! (I'll elaborate further on this below)

Overall she was just totally shocked and often seen children falling over or jumping from dangerous heights. She never saw any of the childcare workers filling in paper work and they confirmed that it isn't their job. She's a manager of a creche and she talked to the manager and asked her about the budget but was told: "that's not her job". They simply get the money they need.

Childcare workers at level 6 receive about 4k a month gross as a starting wage (I don't know what increments they get there after). It is my theory that 3 factors allow for such high wages:

1: No form filling. This is a significant part of the job and my boys creche have to record every fall or incident, as well as prepare mini reports on his development and make observations about his play etc.. Basically they have to do a load of BS work which makes them less available to perform their primary duty. We pay for her to spend that time filling in forms and paperwork, it's on all our dime.

2: Ratios. No easy solution to this one and feeds into the next factor.

3: Behaviour. German children are far better behaved than Irish children. This facilitates the much higher ratios which allows less workers to do the same work, thus being able earn more. I wouldn't trust 12 year old Irish kids with a jigsaw or to not get lost in a forest!


So a couple of other areas that are worth looking at regarding the difference in culture. At the end of creche, the children go home on public buses, accompanied by a single staff member. The parents MUST meet them at the buss stop to collect their child. If they don't, another parent might look after the child until the parent arrives. If not that, then they stay on the bus and the parent must collect them at the last stop. My friend and I both agreed that such an arrangement in Ireland would result in all the children ending up at the last stop, being collected an hour late by their parents. In Germany they have a very different culture and their work must facilitate the schedule they need to meet for childcare duties.

Even more extraordinary was the commitment required for the forest creche. The forest creche had ZERO facilities. No electricity or wall or anything. It was a bunch of kids running around a forest. Each morning the parents must help carry water up the hill into the forest. Children had to poo in the ground. Dig a hole and poo in the ground. 2 days of the week the children would spend a full day in the forest and on these days parents must come at lunch with a hot meal for their child. My friend asked "How do you get them to do that?" and the answer was simply "That's what they agreed to when they sent their child here".


An extraordinary difference in the capacity of the system but I found the commitment of the parents most interesting because one of the reasons I think childcare should be 100% private is because if parents have to pay the real cost of looking after their children for 5 days of the week, they would quickly lower their expected standards of care to something they could actually afford and they would be more inclined to invest more fully in that childcare. Not necessary in Germany, but it's obvious that their culture is near diametrically opposed to ours and anything you give for free in this country tends to be viewed with little to no value on behalf of the recipient and demanding better quality is easy when you don't pay for it to begin with!

What I identified a something which must be an enormous factor in the difference of culture was our own litigation culture here. Childcare workers don't write short report about every incident because it benefits the children, they do it to cover themselves against litigation. That is obviously not a problem in Germany, perhaps relating to a far superior free healthcare system.


The one thing I did end up taking away from the quite extraordinary tales my friend told was that the next time I hear "this is best practise in..", I will cast a very suspicious eye over the claim because clearly something which works in Germany could be entirely catastrophic over here. If it works in Britain, then perhaps we can just copy and paste but I really don't think any form of social policy from the continent or Scandinavia etc.. can just be assumed to be a model we can adopt.

Anyways, just thought I would share for those who might have an interest.
 


Kevin Parlon

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It all sounds pretty swell to me. The Forest Creches are fantastic. This I know from first hand experience. Germany has a long tradition of valuing the 'outdoors' and recognizing its importance in shaping character and perspective. The diligence of German parents being there to pick up their kids from the bus can be explained by the very high social costs of not doing so. It's the same kind of civic responsibility that has never taken root in Ireland.
 

firefly123

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Some parts sound fantastic. Irish kids don't get outdoors enough (although our climate is unhelpful that way). We are locked in a litigious society which helps breed a huge amount of pen pushers and form fillers. In saying that Ireland still rates significantly higher than Germany for raising a family and most Germans I know are strange fish. I would love us to be less litigious and allow our children more freedom but some of what you mentioned is daft for small kids.
 

eoghanacht

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How does one go about ascertaining that "German children are better behaved than Irish"?
 

Orbit v2

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Great post. It used to be like that here before common sense went out the window and "standards" and quangos came in.
 

RasherHash

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It's all a bit negative about Ireland, people here collect their kids from school at the time they're supposed to collect them from school, I'm sure if they had to collect them at a bus stop they could manage that.
 

gleeful

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Very interesting OP.

One point ill add about behaviour. Ive always give my kids the opportunity to fall, cut themselves or burn themselves - to the point of other parents thinking im mad. Now those parents marvel at how mature and well behaved my lot are - while their kids are brats. Wrapping a kid in cotten wool and too much safety stops them growing up.
 

silverharp

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Germans seem to keep their kids "younger" longer than here and are more distrustful of the whole US teenager culture being absorbed by their kids. From knowing a few German families in Dublin kids for example don't have free access to computers, they might get a couple of hours at the weekend and that it.
 

eoghanacht

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It's all a bit negative about Ireland, people here collect their kids from school at the time they're supposed to collect them from school, I'm sure if they had to collect them at a bus stop they could manage that.


Get with the program, the Irish are feckless retards raising feckless retards, except for all the contributors on the thread, they're the bestest Irish parents ever!
 

eoghanacht

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We need a college educated elite squad of national brood mothers.

That way the skangers wont breed and we can finally move forward in to that utopia that the skangers have been holding us back from.
 

toughbutfair

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(1) Ethnic Germans are having fewer children than Irish parents , so it is wrong to suggest their system is great (if it was, they'd be having sufficient children to maintain their population
(2) Our weather is fine , a bit of rain/wind is no big deal. Get out doors and stop being a lazy slob watching soaps,football and reality t.v.
(3) Judges are giving far too much money to anyone who gets a knock. A kid recently got about 40k for an incident which left a one inch scar on the kids LEG.
(4) raising children isn't rocket science, not saying it is easy but it isn't complicated, it has been done since the dawn of the species so you don't need to study for 4 years how to interact with children.
(5) I have seen no evidence that German children or adults are better behaved than Irish ones.
 

toughbutfair

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Get with the program, the Irish are feckless retards raising feckless retards, except for all the contributors on the thread, they're the bestest Irish parents ever!
That sums up the view of many on p.ie - a very pessimistic bunch.
 

Orbit v2

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Non answer
I suppose the point was that children get their behaviours from their parents first and foremost.

But, if the point of your question was whether children's behaviour is all that significant a factor, I'd probably agree with you. The last thing that is wrong with Irish childcare is the behaviour of children themselves.
 

Orbit v2

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We need a college educated elite squad of national brood mothers.

That way the skangers wont breed and we can finally move forward in to that utopia that the skangers have been holding us back from.
Nah. I'm sure you're right. There's nothing we can learn from other countries....
 

gleeful

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I do think there is too much pressure on child care and schools to prevent any and all cuts and scrapes. Let kids fall. A few scars are not the end of the world.
 

Sexual Harassment Panda

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How does one go about ascertaining that "German children are better behaved than Irish"?
The fact that such high ratios don't result in total calamity? The fact that they can have a forest creche where having a rule about how far away the children can go, is actually sufficient to stop them going too far away? The fact a power tool was left on a table and wasn't immediately turned into a pretend gun?

Some parts sound fantastic. Irish kids don't get outdoors enough (although our climate is unhelpful that way). We are locked in a litigious society which helps breed a huge amount of pen pushers and form fillers. In saying that Ireland still rates significantly higher than Germany for raising a family and most Germans I know are strange fish. I would love us to be less litigious and allow our children more freedom but some of what you mentioned is daft for small kids.
Yeah I'm not actually trying to beat up on Irish parents or Irish children. I wouldn't have been as well behave at 12, as these kids are at 4, but I turned out to be a responsible adult who works hard and provides for a family. Being behaved isn't the be all and end all and personally I wouldn't want German culture, over our own. I'd love to not have the litigation culture but other than that I think Ireland has it's own way of raising children which, under a healthy family environment produces great people.

My take away was not "Ireland is sh*t and Germany is great". It was that we can't transplant what works in other countries because these models and structures for social policy do not operate in a vacuum. The system in Germany works in Germany because their culture supports it. We often talk about what works in other countries but that discussion rarely touches on how the culture and society of that other country supports that model to work.

Love the forest creche idea and we do have open creches in this country - but they are a little harder to manage with our sh*tty weather. Love that children are being trusted with power tools at that age, that they can be left unaccompanied in the creche and that if two kids have a little fight, it doesn't have to be recorded and reported and a letter sent to the parents, they need to sort it out amongst themselves. I suffered a lot of bullying in secondary school and in absolutely every case, fighting the bully whether I won or lost ended the problem. Every time it earned me respect from all my peers. I think in Ireland we're making children, from a very young age, totally reliant on authority figures to solve their problems and so is it really surprising when those people become adults and expect the government to fix everything in their life that isn't "fair"? They become Bernie Sanders supporters!!!!!!

It's all a bit negative about Ireland, people here collect their kids from school at the time they're supposed to collect them from school, I'm sure if they had to collect them at a bus stop they could manage that.
Well that was not really the intention. Outside of a couple of things, my feeling is just that we are more different than I had ever imagined.
 

Kevin Parlon

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