Early Childhood Ireland, welcomed the publication of two Government reports which focus on the overall quality and benefit to early years and School Age Children but warn that if their recommendations are to be achieved, the continuing year-on-year investment will be vital.
The publication of the new report ‘Partnership for the Public Good’ announces and outlines a new sector funding model and published alongside it is the report entitled ‘Nurturing Skills’ which outlines the road map for a new workforce development plan for our sector. Both of these reports and their areas of focus were commitments set out in First 5, the 5-year government strategy for babies, young children and their families. We welcome these important developments for our sector, as well as the Government reaffirming its commitment to reforming and developing sustainable Early Learning and School Age Care system in Ireland.
Both reports potentially signal a real and significant commitment to bring Ireland’s child care system in line with the other EU Member States. By committing to a new stream of core funding and by recognising the importance of a professional workforce for the delivery of high-quality, child-centred care and learning, this Government is answering the concerns raised by us, by providers and by parents, for many years now.
‘Partnership for the Public Good’ – A New Funding Model for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare
The new funding model report proposes a reimagined relationship between providers and government, a partnership that would also facilitate greater parental involvement.
It outlines 25 recommendations under four core elements:
• Core Funding, a new supply-side payment for providers designed to support quality including improved staff pay, supports the employment of graduate staff; enhance public management alongside associated conditions in relation to fee control;
• Funding for new universal and targeted measures to address socio-economic disadvantage;
• The ECCE programme, with funding to support the employment of graduate staff incorporated into Core Funding, and the extension of AIM beyond the ECCE programme;
• An amended NCS to provide enhanced universal support to all families, tailor additional supports to high-volume users of services, and resolve certain issues arising from work/study or wraparound policy.
We welcome the stronger emphasis put on supports to develop quality provision. The recommendations that local structures should be considered to deliver funding reforms, and that a sophisticated monitoring and evaluation framework should be introduced by the Department of Children are also welcome. However, the report only sets out a financial package that reaches August 2023 which may not be sufficient to achieve the transformative change our sector needs. These kinds of reforms cannot be implemented without continued investment and if they are to be realised successfully, it will also require careful and full consultation with stakeholders.
Workforce Development Plan Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028 aims to strengthen the ongoing process of professionalisation for those working in early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC). Early Years Educators, School-Age Childcare Practitioners and childminders play a key role in supporting children’s development and well-being, working in partnership with families. Recognising their central importance for the quality of ELC and SAC, Nurturing Skills aims to support the professional development of the workforce and raise the profile of careers in the sector. Nurturing Skills sets out actions to achieve workforce commitments in the First 5, including:
• Achieving a graduate-led workforce in ELC by 2028, with new financial supports to assist Early Years Educators to study while continuing to work in the sector;
• Supporting School-Age Childcare Practitioners to meet new qualification requirements that will be introduced incrementally over the coming years;
• Development of a career framework and strengthening career pathways, including new supports for leadership development;
• Building a national infrastructure for Continuing Professional Development for the sector; and
• Supporting staff recruitment, retention and diversity in the workforce.
The funding commitments made in Budget 2022 demonstrated that this Government recognises the importance of our sector and the scale of reform needed. The ambitions outlined in today’s reports will require year-on-year investment to support childcare providers to deliver high-quality care and education to children and to recognise and fully value the sector’s professionals properly. These Newly published reports on funding reform and workforce development ‘have the capacity to deliver real change’ however further investment must follow.
If you have any questions please contact our policy team to discuss any of the issues raised here.