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Celebrating Quality in Early Learning and Care Practice


Tuesday 01 December 2020


This year we were unable to host our annual national award celebrations in person. Therefore, we made the decision to celebrate the shortlisted entries and winners through short online videos. Our aim was to show examples of the love, laughter, passion, and adventures facilitated by educators in quality Early Learning and Care services. The judges had a challenging task choosing overall winners. They were deeply impressed at the exceptionally high quality of all the entries. All those that choose to enter the awards display an outstanding commitment to life-long learning and reflective practice. Early Childhood Ireland feels privileged that it was able to present an alternative celebration this year, while also allowing the award winners to share their stories online.


This year's entries included examples of great relationships, how learning is made visible. Showing how families are supported to grow a more in-depth understanding of ways to nurture children's identity as curious learners. There were links to Aistear's commitment to exploring and thinking and how children make sense of the people, places, and things in their world. There were also many examples of how educators embraced the individuality of children and families in their settings. Each year, we review and update our award programme, reflecting on each category's criteria and the process for all entrants. This is to ensure our programme is transparent and innovative. For those of you not familiar with the awards, we had six categories for 2020. Learning Stories, Inspired Practice, LINC’s Leadership in Inclusion, Transitions, Partnership with Families, and the Pedagogical Leader award. The vision for each award category is the following:


Learning Stories are an important documentation method that focus on children and child-led practice.  With the individual awards, the educator must be so attuned to a particular child, and 'truly knowing the child' becomes so apparent through the documentation. The dispositions, wondering, and overall emotions of the child are some of the most important pieces that usually thread through the stories. The emergent group stories also have that attuned educator. They recognise and value the child/children in their care and see opportunities to develop the child educationally.


The newcomer award aims to celebrate settings which have not applied previously. Learning stories respect children as human beings, and they acknowledge the educator as a partner in children's learning.


Inspired practice takes inspired people. The role of reflection and continuous professional learning shines through these inspiring stories. They create a vision of a maturing professional sector that holds care and education in capable hands.


LINC training has brought the inclusive practice to an ever-widening circle of early years educators. Our vision for this award is to highlight the growing culture of inclusive pedagogy and practice as it takes hold. Many have warmly described their training as life-enhancing. Sharing such stories through this award, we hope to create a vision that inspires.


Transitions are a fact of life, sometimes exciting, frightening, worrying, enjoyable, maybe even all at the same time. Transitions may look and feel very different in our varied rural, urban, town, and city communities. Over the last few years, visionary meaningful, and supportive strategies have been developed and implemented. This award will bring such practice to a broader audience and promote the future development of supportive transitions.


The Partnership with Families award aims to highlight partnership realities with families and award those that excel in this rewarding yet often challenging partnership worlds. Working with reciprocal families can feed and fulfil you professionally. The stresses and realities of everyday life, however, may make the partnership more difficult at times.


The Pedagogical Leader award goes to a role model for our times. The statement's simplicity belies the formidable strong, yet nurturing dispositions required to be such a leader in the highly complex early years sector. A leader who holds close inclusive regard for all the children, families, pedagogues, and ancillary staff members within their setting and beyond. One who has real knowledge, understanding, and belief in their pedagogy of practice and lives it with passion and compassion daily. For that is a vision that inspires and motivates.


If you have not entered before, we hope you will consider sharing your practice in 2021, and to those of you that entered this year, we thank you for taking the time to participate. It has been a challenging year for many. In some small way, we really do hope the awards help you feel inspired and heartened by the passion and dedication within our Early Learning and Care community and the excellent work you do each and every day.

You can find more information here



Milica Atanackovic is a Research & Professional Learning Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the sector of Early Years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts and Child Participation. Milica originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia. Considering the training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the Early Learning & Care, Milica has worked as an educator, service manager and trainer. She also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

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