Annual Monitoring Report for Nurturing Skills 2023

Annual Monitoring Report for Nurturing Skills 2023

The Annual Monitoring Report on the Implementation of Nurturing Skills, 2023 has just been published. Nurturing Skills, the workforce plan for the Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) sector, aims to improve qualification levels, create professional development pathways and promote careers in the sector. The annual monitoring report focuses on the main achievements of 2023 and the follow-on actions from 2022. It also gives a progress update on objectives set out in the five pillars.

Summary of Nurturing Skills action status for 2023
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Overall, the report details that since inception four actions have been completed, 33 are in progress and 10 have not started yet. This compares to the 2022 summary of four actions completed, 27 are in progress and 15 have not started yet.

Completed Actions

One of the four actions completed was the development of a core indicator set for monitoring the progress of implementing Nurturing Skills. This initial indicator set is to be kept under review.

The establishment of a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) was also achieved in 2022 and the annual renegotiation process began in 2023. The JLC had previous drawn up and agreed two Employment Regulation Orders (EROs). These provided minimum pay and other employment conditions for the Early Years and School Age Care (EY and SAC) sector for the first time.

Launched in April 2024, the new Nurturing Skills Learner Fund will support Early Years educators to undertake approved degree-level qualifications while continuing to work in the early learning and care (ELC) sector. It aims to help achieve the Government objective of achieving a graduate-led workforce in ELC services by 2028.

Another completed action was reforming the service funding to remove the exclusive link between Higher Capitation payments and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. This was accomplished via the introduction of Core Funding. The report states that Higher Capitation payments were replaced by new financial supports for providers to employ graduates as Lead Educators and Managers working with children of all ages in Early Years settings.

In progress

In 2023, the Department of Childre, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) commenced initial planning for the development of a new Level 5 award in SAC based on work carried out by the SAC working group during Phase 2 of development of Nurturing Skills. It is expected that more detailed work on planning for the new qualification will commence in early 2024. This project will include the development of a special purpose award for SAC for those who already hold a recognised ELC qualification.

A SAC training and qualifications advisory group was established to support the development of training and qualifications in SAC and the incremental introduction of minimum Level 5 in SAC Regulations. The group had its first meeting on the 13 November 2023.

Commitments in Nurturing Skills on training and qualifications for childminders reflect the distinctive features of Childminding and differences in its stage of development, and are reflected also in the National Action Plan for Childminding 2021-2028.

In line with the National Action Plan for Childminding 2021-2028, and under the oversight of its Steering Group and the Training and Supports Advisory Group, work continued on the development of a mandatory training programme, which will service as a pre-registration requirement for childminders.

Further development of the pre-registration training course will take place in early 2024, with a view to rolling out the training once the regulations have been finalised.

The Minister announced the formation of a sub-group of the ELC Stakeholder Forum to address workforce recruitment and retention challenges faced by the sector, at the November ELCSF meeting. The sub group held their first meeting on the 13 December 2023, with plans to meet bimonthly going forward.

Not started

A series of actions are due to take place throughout 2024. For example, supporting Pillar 3 of Developing a National Continuous Professional Development (CPD) system, a CPD Oversight Group will be established in 2024 which will further guide this work and will support implementation of a number of commitments in Pillar 3 of Nurturing Skills.

An online introduction to Síolta and Aistear is due to be released in 2024 as part of the National Síolta Aistear Initiative (NSAI), in line with the commitment in Nurturing Skills to redevelop NSAI resources into a new blended format, combining online and face-to- face delivery.

Under Pillar 4 of Nurturing Skills, actions are included to examine the development of a range of entry routes into the sector, including apprenticeships or other work-based learning, and access programmes in further education and higher education, with a particular focus on the scope for targeting EY educators and SAC practitioners from groups that are less well represented in the workforce. Planning for research on alternative entry routes commenced during 2023 and the research is expected to begin in 2024.

First 5 commits to moving incrementally over time towards regulation of the ELC and SAC profession, building on the establishment in 2020 of the Qualifications Advisory Board and future creation of a register of the workforce. Nurturing Skills restates this commitment to an incremental move to regulation of the profession over the lifetime of Nurturing Skills. No date is set for completion of this process, given the importance of ensuring that all elements of regulation are robust, ensuring that the sector is ready, and avoiding additional administrative burden on EY educators / SAC practitioners at this time is cited as the reasons for non-starting of this process.

Also not delivered but delayed until 2024 was a commitment to commission research on leadership structures, approaches and supports within settings, and identify needs for additional support. Based on this research, the Department will commission the development of training in management skills specific to managers of EY and SAC services.

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If you have any questions or would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

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