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Valuing Professionals

By: MAIRE CORBETT

Tuesday 11 July 2017

On a sunny Saturday in June I delivered a 5-hour training session on Aistear Síolta in Action to a group of early childhood educators. It was a lovely day.  We explored what our image of the child is. We discussed and shared lots of ideas on play, open-ended materials, minimising transitions and enabling children to have choice. The women in the group reflected as the session progressed, they asked questions of each other and of themselves. It was evident they are committed caring professionals. At the end of the session there were comments like ‘the session was too short’ and ‘could have stayed another 5 hours’. I was buzzing…it was a great day.

And then something happened that stopped me in my tracks. One woman had an envelope in her hand and asked the manager to sign it…it was her ‘signing on’ form. The irony was huge… this experienced, dedicated early years professional is on the dole for the next two months.

We, rightly, place huge emphasis on quality in the early childhood sector. We use the Frameworks, Aistear (2009), Síolta (2006) and we use the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (2015) to support our thinking and reflection on quality and professional practice. Síolta (2006) Standard 11, Professional Practice says Practising in a professional manner requires that individuals have skills, knowledge, values and attitudes appropriate to their role and responsibility within the setting. In addition, it requires regular reflection upon practice and engagement in supported, on-going professional development. We are increasingly becoming a graduate led sector. Dr. Mary Moloney, in her Scéalta post Reflections on Degree Level Training on April 25 2017, says that children deserve this graduate led workforce. Few would argue. Indeed, who could? Our young children deserve well trained, committed, dedicated and passionate people supporting their earliest learning and development through play.

But, as long as these professional people (mostly women, it has to be said) are treated as seasonal workers, paid less than the living wage, signing on for the summer months, our early years sector will continue to struggle to be valued, to be seen as the professionals we know they are. And while the overwhelming majority of people are in this challenging role for the love of it…this won’t pay the bills. Goodwill wears thin after a while.

The huge policy focus on the early years sector in the past 10 years has been most welcome, not least by the educators who have lobbied for such focus for years. It is past time to value them now, as they have, and continue to value the children they care for and whose learning they support. Let’s hope this is the last Summer that educators will be forced to sign-on the dole.

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Mary Friel says:

    As a private provider in early years for the past 21 years I have been unable to sign on during the summer weeks as I am self -employed and have no living wage .I manage my setting for 38 weeks of the year, providing professional care for the children which I enjoy, and as an employer of early years staff I pay their P.R.S.I contributions which they can avail of during the summer months, although it’s below the living wage. As I’m self-employed I can’t pay any contributions for myself and come the end of June I’m expected to live on the wind! As the weekly provided capitation barely covers the costs of providing an adequate service, I struggle to budget for the summer months. My one wish before I retire in the next ten years is that as Early Years educators that we are recognized for our professionalism, respected for our commitment and given the financial reward we so deserve.

  2. Maire Corbett says:

    Hi Mary, thank you for your comment. We agree totally that self-employed people are under-valued for the amazing work they do. We have made this point to Government and it was a key point in our Pre-Budget submission last year. If you want to check it out you will find it on our website https://www.earlychildhoodireland.ie/work/policy-advocacy-2/the-budget/budget-2017/budget-2017-time-for-giant-leaps/.
    In the submission, we said: “Unlike their staff, self-employed ECE service providers are not eligible for Job Seekers Allowance or other supplementary welfare payments to support them during this period when they have limited or no income. In addition to having no automatic entitlement to social welfare support or any entitlement to invalidity and disability benefit, self-employed members of the sector are subject to much more stringent qualification requirements than employees under the social welfare code”.
    Be assured all professionals are included in the title Valuing Professionals and that Early Childhood Ireland will continue to lobby on behalf of all our members. And we share your wish that that Early Years educators be recognized for their professionalism, respected for their commitment and given the financial reward they so deserve. You are so right Mary. Thanks again.

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