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“Ireland must commit to our youngest citizens”

September 12, 2017

Early Childhood Ireland calls on Taoiseach to commit to radically increased investment for early years

Early Childhood Ireland has reacted in the strongest possible terms to a new report confirming that Irish expenditure on early years education is the lowest in the OECD.

The OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance 2017’ report, issued earlier today, indicates that:

  • Irish expenditure on early years education amounts to only 0.1% of GDP.
  • This figure ranks significantly below the OECD average spend of 0.8% of GDP.
  • Ireland ranks lowest among 35 countries, including 22 EU Member States, for expenditure on early years.
  • The highest levels of expenditure were recorded in the Nordic countries, which invest between 1.3% and 1.9% of GDP in early years education (ECE).

“Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated that the government may use Budget 2018 to outline multi-annual expenditure plans for key areas,” commented Teresa Heeney, CEO Early Childhood Ireland. “We are now calling on the Taoiseach to undertake that early years care and education will be singled out for a dedicated five-year investment plan. The organisation believes the Taoiseach will be able to secure unanimous cross-Party support for this.”

While Early Childhood Ireland welcomes the publication of these figures, it is clear they confirm an urgent need for the Irish government to radically increase investment in ECE in Budget 2018 and beyond.  The figures highlighted in the OECD’s report are pressing evidence of the need to commit to greater investment in the early years sector.

Ms Heeney continued, ‘These figures confirm an urgent need to significantly increase investment in the early years sector in Ireland. Ireland cannot stay at the bottom of the league table – it must commit to our youngest citizens. The countries which are universally recognised as delivering excellence in this area, such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway, are investing multiples of what Ireland needs to spend. It is imperative that we catch up. Early Years Operators must be fully supported in the delivery of a quality, sustainable, and affordable service.’

She concluded, ‘Nobody doubts Minister Zappone’s commitment to providing sustained investment, but this needs a whole of government approach, which demonstrates the importance Ireland places on the care and education of our youngest citizens.’

In its Budget 2018 submission to government, Early Childhood Ireland calls for a minimum increased investment by government of €250 million, which would bring Irish expenditure up to €716 million. The organisation is calling upon the government to commit to increasing budget allocation for early childhood education by approximately 0.1% of GDP every year for the next five years. In a country that seeks to deliver a world-class affordable childcare system, the current levels of investment, which place Ireland lowest among OECD countries for expenditure on early years educational institutions, cannot be allowed to continue.

Editor’s Note

Early Childhood Ireland is the largest organisation in the early years sector. It represents almost 3,800 childcare members, who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool, and full day-care provision nationwide.

Early Childhood Ireland has consistently sought to highlight the difficulties facing providers, many of which result directly from continually poor levels of government investment and support. Early Childhood Ireland research has shown that the average early years setting in Ireland operates on a break-even basis, with providers also having to contend with low capitation rates, precarious employment contracts, low wages and recruitment difficulties, and significant commercial rates.

For more information, please contact Grace Duffy on 086 1448768.

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