Who does what in kindergartens?

Only one-third of the employees in Norwegian kindergartens are trained kindergarten teachers. They spend almost 40 per cent of their time on things other than being with the children.



Kindergarten teachers spend 20 per cent of their time on administration, planning and documentation. They spend 17 per cent of the their time on practical tasks that don’t involve the children.

The assistants spend more than 80 per cent of their time with the children. In other words, those who have the least formal qualifications spend the most time with the children.

These are the results of a survey of 998 kindergarten teachers and 1357 assistants in a random sample of Norwegian kindergartens.


‘The idea of equality stands strong in Norwegian kindergartens. It looks like it should be a matter of course that those who have kindergarten teachers’ training take part in the practical work on a par with the assistants’, remarks Gerd Sylvi Steinnes.

She is a researcher at Volda University College. Along with her colleague Peder Haug, she has examined the composition of staff and the division of labour in 590 Norwegian kindergartens. Who should do what? And how do they evaluate their own expertise and that of others?

The assistants spend more than 80 per cent of their time with the children.


The kindergarten teachers that took part in the survey feel that the assistants are just as well-qualified as they themselves to be involved in children’s play. Cooperation with parents, activities to get children ready to start school, e.g. managing the club for 5-year-olds, and working with children with special needs, are the only areas in which kindergarten teachers believe they are more qualified than the assistants. With the exception of these areas, the kindergarten teachers are of the opinion that both groups are equally qualified to carry out pedagogical work in kindergarten.

‘This is rather surprising. One might think that the kindergarten teachers were concerned about rendering their own pedagogical expertise visible, so that it could form a sound platform for pedagogical efforts. For example, play has a strong position in education’, comments the researcher.

Steinnes believes it is possible to envisage that kindergarten tasks could be divided differently. For example, that the assistants do more of the practical work, so that the kindergarten teachers get more time to spend on pedagogical work. At present, the two groups spend equal time on practical chores, leaving the kindergarten teachers less time with the children.

Kindergarten teachers spend 20 per cent of their time on administration, planning and documentation, and 17 per cent on practical tasks.


‘Only 32 per cent of the staff in Norwegian kindergartens have kindergarten teachers’ training. This is not a high percentage relative to other countries we can compare ourselves with’, Steinnes points out. ‘Moreover, there are strong indications that there are limits to how much pedagogical work teachers can manage in kindergartens, because they are so few.

‘It appears to be demanding for kindergarten teachers to interact with the children at the same time as supervising two-thirds of the staff’, Steinnes adds.

About 32 per cent  of the staff in Norwegian kindergartens have kindergarten teachers’ training.


In interviews with recent graduates, kindergarten teachers report that it is challenging to supervise a large group of employees who lack early childhood education, but have long experience of working with children.

‘Some we have interviewed, say that they are cautious about supervising because they fear their actions will be perceived as criticism.’

It goes without saying that a recently graduated kindergarten teacher would find it difficult to tell a mother of five who has worked in kindergarten for a long time, that she can do something in a different way. ‘It feels like I’m bursting the balloon of herself-confidence’, described one survey participant. The researchers asked themselves: Does today’s education provide adequate support for the kindergarten teacher in the day-to-day activities of the kindergarten?


‘To improve the conditions for kindergarten teachers in Norwegian kindergartens, we need to get more of these educators into the kindergartens’, explains Steinnes. In addition, more needs to be done to upgrade the general skills of the staff, not least among the assistants.

‘Kindergarten teachers alone cannot bear all the responsibility for human resources development for the whole kindergarten. That is an impossible job’, she believes.