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Change in the Air

This week within the early childhood education and care sector there has been wide-ranging debate on a scale never seen before; a debate which has been refreshingly professional in nature. On Thursday 5th October, the Irish Times printed an article written by Carl O'Brien in which he discussed the release of a 10-point plan for the sector from newly established group Seas Suas (formally Private Early Education Providers). According to O’Brien, Seas Suas proposed that the Government should “temporarily reduce qualification standards for their employees” bringing the percentage of qualified staff in a service (currently 100%) to 75%. You can see the 10-point plan here.

Hearteningly, this article caused early childhood professionals up and down the country to engage in an online national dialogue. Perhaps having taken heed of Máire Corbett’s call for positivity and respectful debate or Dr. Mary Moloney’s recent call for a community of professional leaders (reference: Dr. Mary Moloney, Building a Community of Professional Learners and Leaders, May 27th 2017, Seminar on Professional Practice hosted by Dublin City Childcare Committee, Dublin), ECE professionals dialogued and debated both the article and the proposal to reduce qualified staff with thoughtful, researched responses.

ECE professionals stood together and denounced what seemed to have been perceived as a threat to their professionalism in a unity seldom seen. They articulated their arguments in a respectful manner with facts taken from research, theory, historical documents (such as the grandfathering agreement) and national standards. They also critically engaged with the group’s 10-point plan and acknowledged that there were some good proposals within the document. From the four corners of the sector, irregardless of which group or association, it was agreed that increased Government funding and not a reduction in the minimum standard of qualified staff was the answer.


To protect hard fought for standards, further improve those quality standards, and dissuade calls for knee jerk reactions (such as allowing 25% of untrained staff to work in services even as an interim measure) ECE professionals overwhelmingly called for investment that is at least equal to that of the OECD average. They were united in agreement that the 0.1% of GDP currently invested by the Irish Government (which is far short of the OECD average of 0.8%) is not enough to ensure the viability of the profession. In order to attract and retain qualified graduate staff – proven to improve quality experiences for children – more money must be invested.


If anything, this debate about professionalism and why we need professional standards, came at the right time. On the eve of Budget ’18, many different groups and fragments of the ECE sector who are usually at odds for various reasons have united - at least momentarily – in the recognition and call for investment to sustain professionalism and to ensure quality experiences for the children who use their services.

This blog was written by the admin team at Montessori and Early Childhood Professionals Ireland (MECPI). MECPI is an online community of practice which has been in operation since 2008. It is not an advocacy group or a paid membership based organisation. The purpose of MECPI is not to advocate for, or create, change in policy or political landscapes but to create a safe space for critical thinking, reflection, and discussions about practice. It promotes the sharing of ideas and resources, and supporting fellow professionals in the hopes of evolving the early childhood education and care profession. Thus, MECPI is a practice based, supportive space. MECPI has a team of voluntary administrators who use their combined wealth of experience to contribute to critical reflection and professional dialogue. They also give their time voluntarily to administrate and moderate the Facebook group discussions. The team of admins are comprised of Valerie Gaynor, Clair Battle, Anne Marie Kelly, Ann Keating O’Neill, Lee Herlihy, David King, and Sinead Matson.

Twitter: @MECPI1

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. As a private provider working in the sector for 12 years with many challenges .
    Staffing and professionalism is on elf our challenges , retention of excellent staff due to lack of renumeration for their educational attainment and experience gained in the sector.
    We are loosing excellent professional staff to higher paid job opportunities in the public sector.
    When we decide d to professionalise the sector and introduce a degree programme , the issue of staff retention was on the cards, now we have a serious issue to address this problem.We benefit from education but we need to enumerate.
    Services have no option but to pass increased fees on to parents. Government and policy has intervened on the running of private business with no understanding shown of the running costs associated with providing a safe quality focused service . We have to Seas Suas and make parents aware of what is happening on the ground .
    The Government support to parents with the introduction the schemes is a support to parents now we have to review what has to happen in our services to keep them open. An increasing number of services all around me are no longer providing for care of children under 12 Mts.
    This is affecting us in many ways and is escalating !!!!!We need to stay united all professional bodies .

    • Bronagh Mooney says:

      We all need to stand together as professional early years educators .
      Unity will bring us more bargaining power as a sector .Together we conquer , divided we fall.
      We need to maintain our minimum qualification levels and strive to have more graduates working with our youngest citizens .

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