This survey was conducted with a group of Early Childhood Ireland members over the weekend April 9-11 as well as a number of follow up calls.
The findings of the survey were presented to the Department of Education Early Years Inspection Team and with the TUSLA Inspection Team during the week April 12-15 by the Early Childhood Ireland CEO.
The survey was sent to 648 members, of whom 255 responded. The members surveyed had previously expressed an interest in being contacted in relation to COVID-19 or inspection related matters. 92 of the respondents had been inspected since March 2020 and shared their experiences:
- 93% of inspections were conducted in the morning;
- 64% of inspections lasted between 2 to 4 hours. 22% of inspections lasted less than 2 hours;
- 39% of respondents received 5 to 10 days notice, 21% received 3 to 4 days and 15% received 1 to 2 days notice. 10 respondents did not receive any notice;
- 57% had meetings or discussions with the Inspector by phone in advance of the visit;
- 46% of inspections were conducted entirely indoors. 47% of inspections were mostly conducted indoors;
- In 89% of cases, inspectors talked to staff in children’s rooms and managers. In about half of the cases, the inspector also talked to children and owners. In 23% of visits, kitchen staff were also consulted;
- The protective measures used by inspectors were: 85% of visits had one inspector only; in 89% of cases PPE was worn and in 87% of cases social distancing was practiced. In 27% of visits, inspectors stayed outdoors some of the time.
- Feedback: 54% of settings heard back within 2 weeks; For about 22% of settings it took about 3 to 4 weeks;
- The overall rating of the inspection experience was 8 out of a possible 10.
Participants also shared their recommendations on inspections in the future. Specifically in relation to COVID-19, members recommended changing PPE clothing when moving between rooms, keeping conversations outdoors as much as possible and continuing to have one inspector only were recurrent suggestions. Adhering to arrangements, especially when it comes to the length of the visit and giving notice, was also highlighted.
Respondents expect to have a constructive dialogue with inspectors, based on support and empathy. They are also in favour of providing as much documentation in advance as possible, which ideally would be loaded to a portal. This should shorten the inspection visit and remove the need for the inspector to access the office. Devising ways to engage parents and having meetings in advance and after the visit are also welcomed initiatives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented challenges to our sector, and adjusting the inspection process was a natural consequence of this. Early Childhood Ireland works to make sure that the health and safety of children continues to be the utmost priority within a context of continuous improvement of inspection procedures.