Course Director(s): 

Jan Peeters

The Centre for Innovations in the Early Years (VBJK), Gent, Belgium
Course Faculty: 

Paul Leseman

Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Adrian Marsh

Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, Turkey

Nora Milotay

Economic Policies Unit, European Parliamentary Research Service, Brussels, Belgium

Zorica Trikic

International Step by Step Association, Leiden, the Netherlands

Ankie Vandekerckhove

The Centre for Innovations in the Early Years (VBJK), Gent, Belgium

Margy Whalley

Former Director, Pen Green Research, Development and Training Base and Centre for Children and their Families, Corby, United Kingdom

This summer institute sub-course is aimed at people with an interest in how effective early childhood systems and services can mitigate the impacts of inequality and exclusion. Drawing on the European Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), the course will enable participants to explore the evidence regarding barriers and best practice when engaging disadvantaged children and their families. It will focus on how high quality, accessible ECEC is an important tool for social change and an essential foundation for all children’s successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and later employability.

By the end of the course participants will have:

  • A comprehensive knowledge of the evidence for effective early childhood interventions aimed at promoting social inclusion;
  • An understanding of how to tailor initiatives to respond to the varying circumstances that families encounter;
  • A knowledge of different policy frameworks framing effective interventions, with a specific focus on progressive universalism;
  • A working knowledge of the European Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care.


Grounded in an appreciation of the role of children’s rights as a means to tackle discrimination and promote inclusion, the impact of discrimination and exclusionary practices on different groups of children and their families (such as refugees and migrants, children with disabilities and children from Roma communities) will be considered, with a focus on the importance of developing quality systems and services that include all. The role of early childhood development as a means to promote social change will also be explored.

The course will be structured around the following five transversal issues: accessibility, workforce preparation, curriculum, monitoring and evaluation and governance. Each theme will be presented by a specialist in the field of ECEC and inclusion with expertise in the specific topic of the day. The lecturer will provide participants with the latest research in this field and address current policy issues. Participants will be asked to provide information about the current situation of each discussed topic in their respective countries. This data will be actively used in the discussions and participants will be asked to share knowledge and experiences. To create a stimulating environment for these exchanges, different methods and tools will be used.
A great part of each day will also consist of zooming in on inspiring practices. These practices will enrich the discussions with an international perspective on what might work in specific situations. At the end of each day, participants will be asked to evaluate for themselves what they found most interesting, useful and what they would like to incorporate in their own practice, research or policy making work. At the end of the course, these day-by-day evaluations will help participants to work out a plan on how they will proceed with the knowledge and information they gained during the summer course.