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Helsinki to secure statutory early childhood education by transferring staff from playgrounds to daycare centres for spring 2023

For the spring of 2023, the City of Helsinki will transfer staff to daycare centres from playgrounds’ open morning and afternoon activities. The transfers are the result of a long-standing difficult staffing situation in early childhood education as well as a wider labour shortage across different sectors. With these measures, the city will ensure the statutory provision of early childhood education for children and peaceful working conditions for the staff in children’s groups.
Yleiskuva leikkipuistosta, jossa leikkiviä lapsia.
Photo: Konsta Linkola

The severe staff shortage in early childhood education is getting even worse. Therefore, as of 9 January 2023, Helsinki will have to transfer staff from playgrounds that offer open activities to children and families to daycare centres for the spring of 2023. With the transfers, the city will ensure the provision of statutory early childhood education.

As the city has previously reported, the Education Division has taken a wide range of measures to improve the availability of staff: it has increased the number of deputies and rapid reaction assistants, increased salaries and improved rewarding, systematically developed career paths, qualifications and the provision of further training, improved the orientation of new employees, increased cooperation with students and educational institutions and strengthened pedagogy, communication and recruitment marketing. 

Despite all these measures, there are areas and units in both Finnish- and Swedish-language early childhood education in Helsinki where it has not been possible to recruit enough staff to meet the statutory staffing levels. 

“Staff transfers are forced measures in a situation where there are simply not enough staff. We have already transferred staff in autumn 2022, and daycare centres have been very grateful for the skilled and dedicated staff they have received from playgrounds. We hope that these measures will ensure children’s right to statutory early childhood education. The additional workforce will give early childhood education staff the much needed peaceful working conditions in children’s groups for longer periods,” says Satu Järvenkallas, Executive Director of the City of Helsinki Education Division.

In the past year, the shortage of early childhood education staff has also begun to affect other cities. In addition to low training volumes, there is a wider labour shortage, which is a phenomenon caused, among other things, by the size of the working age population, which is causing and will continue to cause problems in the availability of labour, particularly in the various service sectors of society.

Playgrounds offering open activities for children and families will be closed for the spring

The City of Helsinki offers open morning activities in playgrounds and two types of afternoon activities: 1) statutory afternoon activities, which the city is obliged to organise by the Basic Education Act, and 2) open afternoon activities, which are not compulsory by law, i.e. the city offers them as a complementary service to its the residents.

As a result of the staff transfers, a total of 39 playgrounds providing morning activities, such as clubs, for families with children and afternoon activities for school children, will be closed in Helsinki for the spring of 2023. In total, the closure of the 39 playgrounds will have an impact on the morning and afternoon activities of around a 1,000 first and second graders in Helsinki. 25 play parks will remain open, all offering statutory afternoon activities. Around 1,100 children participate in this activity. 

For spring 2023, families can apply for afternoon activities under the Basic Education Act. Unfortunately, there are currently fewer places available under the Basic Education Act than there is need for. In addition, substitutes for open activities are currently being actively sought from the private sector, and families will be informed about applying for these as soon as information is available.

“This is an extremely unfortunate situation, especially for families and children. However, we wanted to be open in keeping people informed about the situation well in advance before the end of this year. We know how important playgrounds are to Helsinki residents, and that is why we want to get them open again as soon as possible. We will do everything we can as a city to achieve this goal. However, the root causes of the staff shortage in early childhood education are also of a wider societal nature, and solutions must be sought at national level,” says Järvenkallas.

The playgrounds to be closed as of 9 January 2023 are:

South: Lahnalahti, Ruoholahti
Central: Intia, Kimmo, Lehdokki, Sanna, Vallila, Linja
Western: Laurinniitty, Munkki, Tullinpuomi, Ulvila, Viiri, Kaunokki, Nuoli, Trumpetti
Northern: Mäkitorppa, Soihtu, Torpparinmäki
Northeastern: Filpus, Maasälpä, Salpausselkä, Traktori, Unikko, Jalopeura, Kurranummi, Linnunrata, Nurkka, Tapuli
Southeasthern: Hilleri, Puuskakulma, Rudolf, Santahamina, Tuorinniemi
East: Kiikku, Kipinäpuisto, Mellunmäki, Haruspuisto, Mustakivi

In addition, the family houses Betania, Torpparinmäki, Sahrami, Naapuri and Kajuutta will be closed.