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Member Research Project – The challenges of re-opening

Member Research Project – The challenges of re-opening

May 27, 2020

After almost two months in a state of lock down, a phased reopening in Ireland started on May 18. Provided that there is no second wave of the virus, early years settings are due to reopen for the children of essential workers on June 29. On July 20, settings are due to reopen for all workers. While a vaccine or effective treatment against the virus has not been developed, the process of reopening requires a long-term need to try to meet the requirements and limitations of physical distancing within early years and school-age settings, good hand and respiratory hygiene and self-isolation if there is a suspicion of contamination. And that means that member settings will have to fundamentally reorganise their activities so as to match the demands of a new economy and society, during an ongoing global pandemic.


Reorganising the sector in a way that the health and well being of children, staff and the wider community is prioritised, while maintaining the operational and financial sustainability of settings, is an enormous challenge. To support members to face those challenges, Early Childhood Ireland’s work on re-opening is being developed on many fronts. Earlier this month we conducted a web-based survey to investigate members’ views about reopening. Thanks to our strong membership engagement, we were able to identify widespread agreement on key themes. To build on these findings, we are going to undertake a series of case studies which will offer a deeper analysis of member needs and challenges. This will provide essential information to policymakers about the impact of Covid-19 and the various responses which will be required to ensure that the sector can survive and thrive. 


This project will employ a qualitative methodology, which is based on one-to-one interviews with members. This approach allows for in-depth and more contextualised insights into how people perceive the challenges of the future. The selected group of members includes providers that are as different from each other as possible, in relation to setting type, services provided and location. The idea is to capture the diverse experiences and demands of our diverse sector. All of the data gathered will be strictly confidential. As part of this project, we envision publishing a final project report, in the form of a series of anonymised case studies.


Early Childhood Ireland believes that the success of the re-opening process is dependent on the development of strategies that are inclusive of the voices of all relevant stakeholders. These approaches have the potential to expedite the implementation of policies that will improve the prospects of the early years and school-age case sector not just during, but also beyond the crisis period. The long-term viability of the diverse sector is essential and is a key test of any proposed policy developments.  We will keep members up to date about this project.

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