The Health Service Executive(HSE) is responsible for inspecting ‘pre-schools, play groups, nursery’s, crèches, day-care and similar services which cater for children aged 0-6’, under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 (www.hse.ie). The HSE pre-school inspectors assess the compliance of a service in regard to these Child Care Regulations during an inspection visit, which is followed up by an inspection report.
Early Childhood Ireland wanted to gain an understanding of our member’s experience of their HSE inspection, in order to best represent their views and improve the inspection process.
The HSE survey was published on the Early Childhood Ireland Website and also on Early Childhood Ireland’s Facebook and Twitter pages. It was emailed to all Early Childhood Members.
Both members and non-members were invited to participate in the survey. The questions in the survey were based on different aspects of the inspection process and the survey was carried out from 21/05/2012 to 20/06/2012.
The survey was completed online by 243 Early Childhood Ireland members and 17 non members. Two surveys were returned by post.
Of the 260 respondents who replied, 75% of these were private childcare and education providers, with the remaining 25% coming from community childcare and education settings.
Over half of survey respondents operated sessional childcare settings (52 %), while 33% of respondents operated full time childcare settings. The remaining 15% came from various other settings and are represented in the graph below.
The survey respondents were spread fairly equally among the four HSE areas with28% of survey respondents coming from HSE South and 22% from the remaining 3 HSE areas respectively.
Almost ninety per cent of respondents had an inspection within the last 2 ½ years and only 5% of them were informed of their inspection in advance.
The most common length of inspection time was between 1 ½ and 3 hours (39.5%).The remainder of the inspection duration times ranged from 30 minutes to 3 days.
When asked to describe the style of the inspection, forty per cent of respondents found it nerve wracking and 37% described it as thorough. Thirty nine per cent responded that they found the inspection style to be supportive and positive, while 27% remarked that it was encouraging and helpful. Only 12% of the 260 survey respondents reported that the style of inspection was negative.
Sixty seven per cent of the survey respondents found the inspection report to be helpful. The most prevalent comment about the report was that childcare and education providers would like to see some positive feedback on them, not just tick boxes and negative comments.
The most common other inspection in the last 12 months was from POBAL, with 75% of the sample reporting a visit from POBAL, followed by Fire Safety (14%) and Food Hygiene (12%). Six per cent of the childcare providers sampled had an inspection from the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) in the last 12 months, and 4% had had a Health and Safety inspection. Planning inspections were had by 3% of the survey respondents.
Fifty per cent of the respondents who had other inspections said the advice given from the officials was in line with the 2006 Childcare Regulations, but 24% said that they were given conflicting advice from these officials. They commented that the advice they were given was around ECCE compliance, fire safety and planning issues for example.
The majority of survey respondents had received their report in less than a month (72%). 5% were still waiting for their report and the longest a respondent had waited was 6 months (2%).
When asked how the inspection process could be improved, the majority of survey respondents’ replied that they would like to have been given an indication of when the inspection was taking place so that they could arrange for staff cover, and in some cases paperwork.
A reoccurring theme throughout the survey responses was that childcare providers would like to receive more positive feedback and would like to see this reflected in the inspection report.
“We all know from our pedagogical studies that we look for the positives to applaud and then suggestions/solutions to areas that need work”.
Where participants were given positive feedback from the inspectors, they really appreciated it and appeared to have a positive view of the inspection experience. Some also commented that they would prefer if the inspection was more supportive and helpful rather than negative and box ticking. These participants suggested that the inspection report should be graded rather than just tick boxes around compliance/non-compliance.
Others stated that the inspection should be focussed more on interactions and quality of care and commitment from the staff, or on Siolta and Aistear, and less on nit-picking health and safety requirements.
Participants, who had services under different HSE areas, complained that there were inconsistencies between the different health service executive areas.
Qualifications of the HSE inspectors was also an issue raised by survey respondents who mentioned that they had to continue with their training and professional development even though their inspector didn’t have an early childcare and education background.
In contrast to these comments around the negative experiences of the inspection, a number of participants stated that their last inspection had been a big improvement on the previous one, and that the inspectors had been much more friendly and helpful.
The key findings of the survey indicate:
- Although the inspection process is a nerve wracking experience it is also seen as necessary, and 39% of respondents found the style of inspection to be supportive and positive.
- Childcare providers would appreciate an indication of when the inspection was taking place so that they could arrange for staff cover in order to comply with adult: child ratios, and lessen the disruption to the running of their service on the day.
- Sixty seven per cent of respondents found the inspection report helpful, but the majority of comments indicate they would prefer if there was scope for more positive feedback and explanation both verbally and in the report.
- Where support, constructive advice and feedback were given during the inspection, it was appreciated and led to a more positive experience, helping to allay the ‘air of negativity and criticism.’ Where the inspectors were noted as ‘considerate and conscientious’ the process was seen as being much more beneficial and a positive experience for all involved.
- The inconsistencies between different HSE areas and different Inspection departments regarding the Child care regulations was raised and also the qualifications and ECCE experience of the HSE Inspectors were questioned.
- Some respondents felt that the inspection process needed to focus more on interactions and the quality of the service with regard to the children’s care and education, and less on health and safety components. Some participants who had spent a lot of time engaging with Siolta and Aistear felt that this was not recognised.
We would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the survey. Please make sure your voice is heard by participating in future surveys.
If you have any queries about the survey please contact Kylie Johnson at: email@example.com or on 01 404 0697