Pædagogisk kvalitet i store og små daginstitutioner. En rapport om børns trivsel, læring og udvikling i store og små daginstitutioner.

Kragh-Müller, G.
Ringsmose, C.
Institut for Uddannelse og Pædagogik, Aarhus Universitet.


The purpose is to study the relationship between small ECEC centres (with less than 50 children) and large ECEC centres (with more than 100 children). More specifically, the following factors were studied: (a) What does the size of the ECEC centre mean for the pedagogical quality and thereby the children's well-being, learning and development? (b) What does the size of the ECEC centre mean for the pedagogical management and organisation of work? (c) What does the size of the ECEC centre mean for ECEC teachers' professional standards, working conditions and competences? (d) How can challenges in practice regarding work in large and small centres be addressed? (e) How do children view well-being and a happy childhood, and to what extent is it possible to realise their desires in the day-to-day life in large and small ECEC centres?


On the one hand, results show that it is not possible to identify a one-to-one correlation between quality and the size of ECEC centre. On the other hand, the study shows that ECEC centres with more than 100 children cannot be not recommended, as they face a number of challenges regarding quality and children's opportunities for well-being, learning and development. ECEC centres of 60-90 children have the benefits of small centres, but also face some of the same challenges as large centres. Overall, large ECEC centres with more children have less space, and this has a negative impact on working conditions and on the children. Moreover, the study found that there are more age appropriate requirements and activities for children in small ECEC centres. Overall, the study indicates that the pedagogical quality is higher in small ECEC centres. Furthermore, the study confirms that there is a lower degree of contact and attentiveness between children and adults in large ECEC centres.


With regard to management, the study finds that the flexibility regarding budget and staff enjoyed by large ECEC centres does not trickle down to the children. Leaders of large ECEC centres have to spend more time on strategic and administrative tasks. Moreover, staff at large ECEC centres experience more top-down management and find that they have less influence, and pedagogical quality varies to a higher degree in these large ECEC centres. There is no difference between the professional management in small and large ECEC centres. Overall, structure governs large ECEC centres to a greater extent than in small ECEC centres, and this may challenge focus on pedagogical quality. In small ECEC centres, the leader is much more likely to know the children and their parents, and this allows the centre to include them in the planning of everyday activities.

With regard to the employees' working conditions, the study finds that it is more difficult for the staff to build a shared culture in large ECEC centres. Moreover, the large areas are impractical and time-consuming for the staff, as they require a high level of logistical planning with regard to children and activities. The author concludes that it is important to maintain separate departments in large ECEC centres and to avoid moving staff from one child group to another. Furthermore, it is important that the management’s objectives are put into practice, and this requires management’s presence on the floor as well as further education and supervision of staff.


With regard to well-being and a happy childhood, the study shows that children thrive best with playmates and happy adults who also want to play. Such conditions are challenged in large ECEC centres. Small ECEC centres are better at providing conditions that allow more time to play, closer relationships between the children and better peer play. Although the children are better at resolving conflicts in small ECEC centres, the adults are more often able to help and intervene in such situations. However, the study also indicates that large ECEC centres can be organised in ways that promote the benefits enjoyed by medium-sized centres.


The study is divided into a qualitative study, in which 12 ECEC centres took part, and a quantitative questionnaire survey carried out by Bureau 2000 with questionnaire responses from a total of 488 ECEC centre leaders and 389 ECEC teachers. The 12 ECEC centres represented regions throughout Denmark. A total of six large ECEC centres took part in the study (two ECEC centres with more than 200 children and four ECEC centres with 100-200 children) as well as two medium-sized ECEC centres and four small ECEC centres. Large ECEC centres were defined as centres with more than 100 children, medium-sized centres as centres with 60-90 children and small centres as centres with less than 50 children. The qualitative study included observations, interviews with leaders, staff and children as well as KIDS assessments (child care quality assessments). KIDS is a tool to evaluate and develop quality in ECEC centres. Data from KIDS was shown in bar charts for each ECEC centre in order to draw up charts with average assessments of large and small ECEC centres. The other observations elaborate on the KIDS data. Data from the quantitative questionnaire survey was used to examine the extent to which the qualitative results can be generalised to ECEC centres in Denmark.


Kragh-Müller, G. & Ringsmose, C. (2015). Pædagogisk kvalitet i store og små daginstitutioner. En rapport om børns trivsel, læring og udvikling i store og små daginstitutioner. Institut for Uddannelse og Pædagogik, Aarhus Universitet.

Financed by

Partially financed by the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators’ (BUPL) research foundation.