This issue of the European Journal of Education addresses current European trends and developments in the ﬁeld of early childhood education and care fromthree interconnected perspectives: it provides a platform for exploring policies, practices and theoretical underpinnings relating to the institutions set up to supportyoung children and their families in Europe.There is no ‘safe ground' on which to construct our research and that has consequences for design, process and outcome: it confronts researchers with the necessity to situate and position themselves in relation to the contested meanings. In designing and conducting researchinto the complexity of European early childhood education and care systems, weare asked not to take sides, but to take a stand. The individual contributionsapproach their speciﬁc topics within a shared framework that acknowledges thateducation is inevitably political and value based - which creates the need for constant democratic dialogue. The choice of contributions to this issue does notattempt to offer deﬁnite answers, let alone 'solutions' to the 'problem' of early childhood care and education in Europe. It insists that all suggestions can only be preliminary and are subject to constant democratic renegotiation. Rather than promoting one ‘right' answer, the perspectives offered in the shared framework of the issue aim at exploring the critical questions we suggest we need to ask in research, policy and practice.