As part of this assignment I will write about the historical developments of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector in Ireland, History of ECCE provision in Ireland
Pre-school education did not really exist in Ireland apart from a few exceptions until the 1980s and 1990s. This was largely due to the fact that until quite recently the majority of Irish women did not work outside the home. Even if they did the childcare was usually provided by family members or childminders located in the community known to the family. Irish policy discouraged women from working outside the home. The ‘marriage bar’ meant that women working in the public service had to leave their jobs as soon as they go married and become stay at home mothers and wives. This ban was lifted in 1957 for primary school teachers, but it was 1973 before the ban was lifted for other women in the public service. Until resent years in Ireland, very few mothers worked outside the home. Therefore , there was little focus on pre-school education in Ireland until the late 1980s and 1990s Most of the progress in the area of pre-school education in Ireland has come from the privet rather than public sector.
Outside the state –funded primary school system, investment in pre-school provision was traditionally targeted to support children in need of specific interventions, including educational disadvantage and children with special needs. The ECEC needs of babies, young children and their families were met instead by a broad range of community, voluntary and private enterprise. ECCE service provision was unregulated until 1997. When the Child Care (Pre-School) Regulations 2006 came into effect, no stipulation was made regarding qualifications necessary to deliver such service, especially those provided by community and voluntary sector relied heavily on volunteer staff. Even in the private sector, salaries were low and conditions of employment poor. Opportunities for employment in state-funded services were very limited excluding primary teachers in infant classes and similarly characterised by low status and low wage. Working in childcare was not generally viewed as a desirable choice. One important initiative came from the public sector in 1969, with the opening of a state –run pre-school in Ruthland Street Dublin.
The Department of Education worked with Van Leer Foundation – an organisation that promotes the early education of children living in economically disadvantaged areas. Together they set up the pre-school in Ruthland Street as a template for other such pre-schools around the country. These pre-schools were known as Early Start pre-schools. A total of 40 pre-schools opened nationally – all of which are still open today. The aim of these pre-schools is to combat the effects of economic and social disadvantage on educational achievement. This is archived by giving children a good start to their education. In 1992 Ireland ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This helped to bring public consciousness the rights of children. And in 2000, the Department of Health and Children published the National Children’s Strategy. This set out ten-years plan for improvement of children’s lives in Ireland . The strategy document stated that its vision was for:
An Ireland where children are respected young citizens with valued contribution to make and a voice of their own , where all children are cherished and supported by family and the wider society; where they enjoy a fulfilling childhood and realise their potential. (DoHC 2000 10 ) One of the goals of the National Children’s Strategy is that children will receive quality supports and services to promote all aspects of their development (DoHC 2000:30) The strategy aims to fulfil this by providing quality childcare services and family – friendly employment measures. National Forum on Early Childhood Education (1998)
The National Forum on Early Childhood Education was established in 1998 by then Minister for Education and Science, Micheal Martin. The forum brought together organisations and individuals with an interest in early childhood education , and in this way it created a ‘think thank’ from which a number of very worthwhile initiatives came one being the White Paper on Early Childhood Education , Ready to Learn (DES 1999 ). National Voluntary Childcare Collaborative (1999)
The National Voluntary Childcare Collaborative (NVCC) was first established in 1999 which today comprises of seven national non – government agencies dedicated to the promotion of ECEC in Ireland. While the organisations involved are non-governmental, the NVCC can receive government funding. The seven organisations involved in the NVCC are
Children in Hospital Ireland
Forbairt Naionrai Teo
Early Childhood Ireland
Irish Steiner Kindergarten Association
St Nicholas Montessori Society of Ireland
White Paper on Early Childhood Education, Ready to Learn (1999) The purpose of this White Paper was to set out government policy on all issues relating to early childhood education. Quality of provision was the key theme of the White Paper. It recognised that while there was much quality provision in the ECCE sector, there was also a need to standardise provision. These findings led directly to the Child Care Pre- School Regulations (DoHC 2006) Siolta (CECDE 2006) and Aister (NCCA 2009). All three of these initiatives are concerned with standardisation and quality of provision.
Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (2002)
The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) was established by Dublin Institute of Technology and St Patricks College, Drumcondra . It was launched by the Minister for Education and Science in 2002. CECDE aimed to achieve the goals set out in Ready to Learn (1999) . The organisation was disbanded in 2008, when it was seen by government to have achieved everything it was set up to do. Among other things, CECDE produced Irelands first quality framework entitled Siolta . The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (2006) Child Care (Pre-School) Regulations 2006
Child Care (Pre-School Services) (no2) Regulations 2006 was produced by the Department of Health and Children. This document set out pre-school regulations and put statutory basis ECEC services provision in Ireland. The regulations clearly list all the requirements that must be met by organisations or individuals providing ECCE services to children aged 0-6. The regulations cover such issues as first aid, management, staff –child ratios, behaviour management, fire safety measures, premises and facilities, heating, ventilation, lighting, facilities for rest and play. Fulfilment of the requirement of these regulations undoubtedly put much work and expense on ECEC providers , particularly those providing services from premises that were not purpose built. However many people believe these regulations have done more than any other initiative for the improvement of ECEC services for children. This is because they are on a statutory footing and they enforced by HSE inspectors.
The Department of Education and skills published Siolta The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education in 2006. The Siolta framework was developed by CECDE in a process that took over three years and involved 50 different organisations representing childcare workers , teachers , parents , policymakers and researchers. Siolta aims to define , assess and support the improvement of quality across all aspects of practice in ECEC settings that cater for children aged 0-6.Settings covered by Siolta include full- and part-time day care, childminding services and sessional services e.g.
Montessori classrooms and infant classes in primary schools. The inclusion of infant classes in primary schools represented a new departure for ECEC in Ireland. Up until the publication of Siolta (and Aistear in 2009) , pre-school and primary school children were treated very differently. It is now understood that children aged 0-6 require a developmental-based (as opposed to subject based) curriculum regardless of whether the child is in pre-school or primary school. Since December 2008 after CECDE was disbanded, the Early Years Education Policy Unit in the Department of Education and Skills has been responsible for the implementation of Siolta. Aistear (2009)
Up until recent years, the curriculum followed by pre-school settings was largely undirected and unregulated. This has inevitably resulted in variation in the quality of the curriculum provided by settings. In 1999, the NCCA published the Primary School Curriculum, which did direct and regulate the curriculum followed in infant class. However, in 2004 the OECD conducted its Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in Ireland. This review found that education provided in infant classes in primary schools in Ireland was too directive and formal (OECD 2004:58). In 2009, the NCCA published Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. The ultimate aim of Aistear is the development of the whole child.
This is in contrast with the previous Primary School Curriculum, which was more subject based. Infant classes in primary schools must now follow the Aistear curriculum. This is a huge departure for ECEC in Ireland. For years, Scandinavian countries have been using curriculum similar to Aistear and it is now understood that introducing children to formal, direct education at too young an age is counterproductive and can suppress children’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity for learning. American educator John Holt (1923-85) devoted much of his time researching this topic. It is important to note that Aistear is inspected in primary school settings only. It is not inspected in pre-school settings , which may have reduced its impact.
Free Pre-School Year Programme
In 2010, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs introduced the Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education Programme. Before this, it was only children in disadvantaged areas who could avail of free or subsided pre-school education. The Free Pre-School Year Programme recognises that all children benefit from quality pre-school education. The programme recognises that because pre-school education in Ireland usually comes from private providers, it is expensive and therefore not available to all children, e.g. parents not working outside the home. Under the programme, pre-school providers are paid per child enrolled .The provider must meet certain criteria before entering the scheme, e.g. staff qualifications. This has had the effect of incentivising providers to meet criteria, which in turn has increased the quality of provision.
ECEC Services Currently Available in Ireland
The types of ECEC services currently available in Ireland can be organised under these headings : Sessional services, which provide ECEC services for a set period of time during the day e.g. 9am 1pm Full –time services which provide ECEC services throughout the day Part-time services which provide ECEC services for a total of more than 3.5 hours and less than 5 hours a day . It may include a sessional pre-school service for pre-school children not attending the part-time day care services. Up to 80% of services in Ireland, whether sessional or full time, are owned and operated by the private sector. All registered services regardless of who operates or funds them must comply with the Child Care Pre-School Regulations 2006 and they must follow the Siolta and Aister frameworks. Sessional Services
Playgroups operate in a range of settings and are usually open approximately three hours per day. Children usually attend playgroups from the age of two-and-a-half until they go to primary school. Some playgroups are privately owned. Community playgroups are primarily funded by government and run by community members. Many community playgroups are staffed by individuals on government employment schemes like Community Employment Scheme (CE). These staff members are encouraged to undertake further education and training. Montessori Schools
Usually, Montessori pre-schools are privately owned and they operate for approximately three hours per day. Some Montessori schools run two sessions’ morning and afternoon, with children attending one session per day. Montessori pre-schools are run according to the principles and educational methods of Maria Montessori. While Montessori pre-schools in Ireland do follow the Aistear framework, they also learn via the Montessori curriculum and practical materials.
Naionrai are pre-schools run through the medium of the Irish language. They are supported by an organisation called Forbairt Naionrai Teoranta and there are almost 200 of them nationwide. Naionrai also follow the Aistear framework, of which there is an Irish language version. Children between the ages of 3-5 attend for approximately three hours.
The Early Start Programme is a one –year preventative interaction scheme offered in selected pre-schools in designated disadvantaged areas. The objective of the pre-school programme which is managed by the Department of Education and Skills is to tackle educational disadvantaged by targeting children who are at risk of not reaching their potential within the school system. The Early Start Pre-School Programme was introduced in 1994 in eight pilot schools in disadvantaged areas. It expanded the following year to 40 schools and now caters for over 1,650 children in Ireland. Most Schools are located in the Dublin area, with 26 schools there. There are six in Cork, three in Limerick. There is one in each Galway, Waterford, Bray, Dundalk and Drogheda. Early Start implements the Aistear framework in effort to enhance the overall development of young children and to prevent school failure by trying to counteract the effects of social disadvantages. Pre-schools for Traveller Children
Up to recently funding was provided for a number of pre-schools that catered for specifically Traveller children who might not otherwise have been able to avail of a pre-school year. However, since the introduction of the Free Pre-School Year Programme in 2010, all children can avail of one year’s free pre-school, so there is no longer separated provision for Traveller children. Pre-Schools for Children with Special Needs
Local Health Officers and/or voluntary bodies provide services for young children with severe or profound disabilities. Services are provided in specialised centres around the country and are generally run by clinical director and staffed by nurses with an intellectual disability qualification, ECEC trained teachers and often therapists. While pre-school children in Ireland do not have a specific right to education, they are entitled to certain health services that are related to education. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for providing psychological services and speech and language therapy services for pre-school children with disabilities who are assessed as needing these services. Assessments of children under 5 are carried out under the ‘assessment of need ‘provisions of the Disability Act 2005. The Visiting Teachers Service of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) provides a service to young children with visual and /or hearing impairment, from the age of 2. There are a small number of pre-school class units for children with autistic spectrum disorder. These unites are sometimes attached to primary schools. There are also a number of ABA schools in Ireland. These schools cater for children with autism by using a specific method of teaching called Applied Behavioural Analysis. Parent and Toddler Groups
These are informal groups where babies and toddlers go with their parents to meet other babies, toddlers and parents. They are aimed at providing play and socialisation opportunities for children and normally take place in settings such as community centres or parents homes. Parent and Toddler groups are supported by Early Childhood Ireland. Full-Time Services
Crèches, Day Care Centres and Nurseries
These terms are used to describe services offering full-time care and education for babies and children. Services are usually provided for children aged 6 months to school going age. Childcare regulations state that the adult-baby ratio must not exceed 1:3 this ratio increases to 1:5 for babies over 12 months. Because of this many settings will not accept children less than 12 months. Many facilities also offer afterschool care and/or homework clubs for primary school children. This means that crèches, day care centres and nurseries now cater for children aged 6 months to 12 years. While most full-time services are privately owned and funded by parental fees, a small number are government funded, i.e. community crèches. Some large employers and also many of the larger colleges and universities provide crèche facilities at subsidised rates for their staff and students. These usually operate a long day (8am-6pm) to facilitate working parents. Some city crèches open as early as 6am. Family Day Care/ Childminding
This is the most common form of ECEC service in Ireland. According to Childminding Ireland (2012) approximately 70% of children in out of home settings are cared for in this way. It is estimated that there 37,900 childminders working in Ireland today. (National Childcare Strategy 2006) Childminders who care for three or fewer children are exempt from the Childcare (Pre-School) Regulations 2006 however they are encouraged to register voluntarily with their local Childminder Advisory Officer (CMO), whose name and contact details are available through the local City/ County Childcare Committee (CCC) Under the Childcare Act 1991 , childminders caring for more than three pre-school children are required to register with the HSE.
However many not do so. All childminders whether registered or not are encouraged to follow the National Guidelines for Childminders, which were published by the Minister for Children in 2006 and updated in 2008. Recent government initiatives had tried to regulate their services. These initiatives have tried to regulate this area by offering a number of different incentives to childminders who register their services. These incentives include training by CCCs; financial support like childminding development grant 1000 euro and capital grants 75,000, and tax exemptions childminders can earn up to 15,000 per year tax free. If childminders register, they are included on the CCC list of registered providers. This can be a useful way of advertising childminding services, since many new parents look to the list of registered providers when investigating childcare options.
Occupations within the Childcare Sector
These practitioners provide care for children in day or residential nurseries, children’s homes, maternity unites and similar establishments. Related job titles include crèche assistant and nursery nurse. Playgroup leaders
These practitioners deliver and facilitate play opportunities for children in a age range of formal and informal settings, including play groups, play schemes, free play locations and after-school activities. Related job titles include play leader and playgroup assistant. Educational /Special Needs Assistants
These practitioners assist teachers or relieve them of a variety of non-teaching duties. Job titles include classroom helper, education care officer, non-teaching assistant , school helper and special needs assistant. Childcare manager/supervisor
These practitioners ensure that the care and education of the children is being maintained at all times. They take care of any issues that arise and they are in direct contact with parents. They are responsible for the day-to-day running of the childcare facility. This role requires childcare qualifications well experienced in the area. The role also requires excellent interpersonal and organisation skills and the ability to manage a team of employees. Montessori teacher
These practitioners ensure efficient day-to-day running of a Montessori education setting. They follow Montessori guidelines regarding the education of young children. They present different exercises to children using the Montessori materials and they practise observation on a regular basis. Other childcare and related occupations
There are many other childcare practitioners who perform a variety of domestic activities in the day-to-day care of children. They supervise and participate in children’s play, educational and other activities. Related job titles include childminder, nanny and au pair City/County Childcare Committees (CCC’s)
There are 33 City/County Childcare Committees that were established in 2001 to encourage and facilitate the development of childcare locally. They provide information and advice on setting up your own business in the childcare sector, training courses for people interested in working in the childcare sector and useful information for parents about local childcare facilities. In Budget 2006, the Irish government announced the establishment of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which succeeded the previous earlier Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme. City/County Childcare Committees are open to members of public who wish to apply for grant assistance and support information under the National Childcare Investment Programme. Public Health Nurse
The public Health Nurse is employed by the HSE. Their role is to serve the community with a range of healthcare services; they are also registered general nurses. They are based within the community and will cover certain local areas. They may visit schools. They may visit the elderly people who require help to dress a wound. They also visit newborn babies and their mothers within six-week period of them being discharged from hospital. Public Health Nurses engage in regular contact with GPs, hospitals and other healthcare providers about a patient in their care. This will ensure that other healthcare providers have up to date knowledge so they can ensure best practice.
Special Need’s Assistants
Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) are employed to facilitate learners with a disability related to education. SNA’s may work in a special or mainstream school either on a part or full-time basic. They take on a non-teaching role and are always under the supervision of the class teacher. An SNA may help a child to get on and off buses. They may also help with feeding and toileting. SNA’s are required to have an appropriate qualification to work as a special needs assistant. Primary Teachers
Primary teachers are qualified are qualified to teach the primary school curriculum to children aged 4-12. Primary school teachers have a number of important roles. They ensure the social and academic development of the children in their care. They plan and deliver lessons within the primary school curriculum and they have regular interaction with parents and guardians. Educational Psychologists
The role of educational psychologist is to assess the needs of children and young people who have problems relating to behaviour, learning and/or social /emotional development. This may be done by observing and/or interviewing the child. The appropriate methods of helping the child will be established e.g. different therapies, counselling or learning support programmes. Educational psychologists work in many different settings, within schools, the HSE, private practices and third –level institutions. Family Support Workers
The Family Support Worker Service offers practical and emotional support to families if it is required. The aim of this service is to ensure where possible that children remain with their families. This service also offers home-based support to families for a certain number of hours per week. The support service includes parenting skills, information on diet, nutrition and healthcare, budgeting and family finance, and confidence and personal development. If the family support worker has concerns regarding the family, they will report this information to a social worker. Social Workers
The Social Worker in childcare services can work in four main areas: child protection, child placement, child and adolescent psychiatry, and family support. Social workers often work with families and individuals that require support with a number of problems such as emotional, social, psychiatric and behavioural. They may also work with individuals and their families on a regular basis regarding issues such as child abuse and domestic violence.
Childcare Organisations and Non-governmental Agencies
Barnardos children’s charity delivers a variety of services and work in close proximity with children and their families depending on their specific needs. The aim is to promote family learning and development and, therefore, to enhance the families overall wellbeing. Barnardos strives to give children positive childhood experiences. If a child’s learning and development, and his or her emotional wellbeing is successfully and measurably improved through our work. Then the child’s ability to benefit from life opportunities and manage life challenges will be improved and therefore, the path of his or her life will be changed for the better.
Barnardos aims to improve government laws, policies and procedure across all areas that affect children’s lives. They do this to ensure that the knowledge and experience they gain through working with children and their families in areas such as education and health is heard at government level. They also engage in regular political meetings with government and opposition parties and relevant policy makers. There are a number of ways in which people can learn about the work of Barnardos. Internet, posters, media interviews and articles. Barnardos offers services across three stages of child development : Children aged 0-5 (‘best start’)
Children aged 6-12 ‘(best chance’)
Children and young people aged 13-18 (‘best choice’)
Barnardos may work with a child’s family in order for the child to experience a happy family life with good relationships with parents and siblings. This work include: Providing group sessions with parents and children to practise skills such as listening and problem solving skills. Providing help and advice to parents in different areas like challenging behaviour. Engaging with children of different ages on reverent and often sensitive issues e.g. a family affected by alcohol misuse Providing a guardian ad litem: a person who is qualified and experienced in working with children that are involved in family law proceedings. This service gives children involved an independent voice in court. This person can speak on behalf of the child and explain what their particular wishes are. The guardian ad litem works in conjunction with the child’s family at all times. Providing an origin tracing service, this is especially for people who spent some or all of their childhood growing up in an Irish industrial school. This confidential service provides them with the necessary assistance in finding information relating to their relatives. Staffs who deliver this service are highly trained.
Providing a confidential post adoption service for adults such as a helpline or e-mail service for birth family and adoptive family members. A mediation service is available for people who were adopted and have come in contact with birth relatives and want to begin correspondence. There are training and support meetings for parents who have adopted children from various countries outside of Ireland. The service may also be useful for adoptive parents to discuss any questions they may have about their adult adoptive child seeking birth relatives. Barnardos provide a range of parenting programmes and talks. These are designed for parents of children of every age 0-18. These programmes can offer support to parents in managing their child’s needs and understanding their child. Topics will be selected to address the needs of parents and their child’s stage of development. Teen parent programmes are another important part of the work Barnardos do. In these programmes, Barnardos works in careful collaboration with teenage parents both male and female, together with their children to assist them with advice on financial /educational support. Services Provided to the Community
Barnardos works with children in disadvantaged areas. They provide many services, including the following. Early Years/Tus Maith Service
These are programmes suitable for children aged 0-5. The main principle is to support children and to manage transition into primary school. This programme works using the HeighScope approach, where children have direct experiences based on their own interests and ideas, along with a programme called REDI programme (research –based, developmentally informed) Friendship group
Barnardos realise the importance of children having friends particularly friends of their own age .Therefore; they offer a friendship group which facilitates children in learning the necessary skills to establish genuine and meaningful relationships. These friendship groups are typically suited for children aged 6-9 .Each group is made up of six children and two staff who meet every week for two hours over the period of a week.
Barnardos provides a vetting service that assists in the processing of Garda vetting applications for a number of groups/organisations that are not directly registered with the Garda Vetting Unit. This is at the request of and in collaboration with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) Wizard of Words
Barnardos provides a service known as Wizard of Words (WoW). The programme is a paired literacy improvement programme. It is suitable for children in first and second class in primary school. The programme is delivers one-to-one tuition with older volunteers during school time and on the school premises. The trained volunteers who are typically 55 and over meet with children who have been nominated by the teacher, three times a week during school hours. The volunteers provide reading supports in the implementing of the programme, monitors progress and ensures that the programme is run effectively. WoW is currently hosted in eight schools in Dublin and Limerick. Training and consultancy
Barnardos offers training to childcare professionals, parents and all people that work in the childcare area. The training given is within the important context of Siolta , the National Quality Framework .
Barnardos has bereavement counselling service for children and young people who have lost someone close to them. They try and help them through the grieving process and give them the opportunity to talk. Counsellors are based in Cork and Dublin, but work with children from across the country.
Childminding Ireland aims to promote quality childminding as a benefit form of non-parental care for children of all ages, from infancy to school –age. Childminding Ireland explains that childminders are dedicated to offering constant care in small, home like settings in which children are most comfortable. Childminding Ireland, as the National Association, is committed to promoting the development of quality in family –based care for children by providing a range of services for childminders, promoting Siolta quality standards, development of local childminding networks (www.childmindingireland.ie) Childminding Ireland has a number of objectives in relation to childcare. They aim to : Promote high-quality ECEC standards for children and ensure that all their development needs are met Support and advise childminders and parents in the area of ECEC Maintain a code of standards for family-based care for children Encourage the recognition of childminding as a positive care facility for young children.
Childminding Ireland strives to ensure that their knowledge is heard at government level; they have direct contact with the Minister for Children and the officials who design policies that are directly linked to childminding. Childminding Ireland is constantly lobbying to change, and improve laws, policies and procedures in the relevant areas. They often attend meetings with both government and opposition public representatives. They promote public awareness of childminding in many ways like providing an up to date and easily accessible website, along with print articles. Childminders are always welcome to register with Childminding Ireland. In doing so, they can enjoy many benefits. There is free advertising on the Childminding Ireland website (www.childminding.ie) the website also offers other useful resources , including sample policies and procedures , and information on upcoming training courses and local events . Childminding Ireland also operates a telephone helpline, which is open five days a week. Forbairt Naionrai Teoranta
Forbairt Naionrai Teoranta (www.naionrai.ie) is an small all-Ireland voluntary organisation that supports the promotion of education and care services in Irish for children from birth onwards. Children learning through Irish attend Naionrai and are taught solely through Irish. Forbairt Nainrai Teoranta provides a number of services through Irish.