The latest news and information

New Ministers for Children and Education

May 12, 2016

Katherine Zappone has been appointed new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Richard Bruton has been named the new Minister for Education and Skills.

Who is Katherine Zappone?

Minister Zappone hails from Washington State. Zappone has valuable and practical expertise in the areas of our work. Minster Zappone established her first education project 30 years ago from her home in Tallaght. Together with her wife Ann Marie Gilligan, she simultaneously set up one of the first ever crèches in the Jobstown Community Centre. This expanded into what we know today as An Cosán, one of the largest community education and enterprise centres in Ireland. An Cosán also runs Fledglings, which operates eight preschools around the country, predominantly in disadvantaged areas, and provides education and care to more than 250 children. Zappone’s commitment to improving outcomes for children was also instrumental in the establishment of Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), currently part of the Government’s Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme. During her time as a Senator, Zappone developed An Equal Start An Early Childhood Development Policy, which advocated among other things for a reform of the ECCE scheme and investment in the ECCE workforce to improve the quality of early education and care.


We Welcomed Katherine Zappone and Richard Bruton to their new Roles

“We welcome the appointment of Katherine Zappone as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Richard Bruton as Minister for Education and Skills.  We are confident that their respective appointments to cabinet will ensure that the interests of children and their early years care and education remains high on the government agenda, as it should be.

“Ministers Zappone and Bruton face a challenging task to secure the right level of investment in order to build and fund a childcare and early years system that really works.   That means affordability and choice for parents, a quality experience for children and sustainable salary scales for those delivering the service.”

Read Full Statement here >>


The New Programme for Government

The new Programme for Government has also just been published by the newly formed Government.  It sets out some of the key concerns that are likely to drive Government policy in a wide range of areas over its term.   

You can read the entire document here (the section regarding children and early childhood pages 75-78) 


The most relevant pieces on early childhood education and care include the following:  

  • A review of ECCE, including how Aistear is applied and “a review to ensure children can avail of a full two years”;  
  • An independent review of the cost of providing quality childcare;   
  • Monitoring the implementation of new regulations and standards;   
  • Review and reform the inspection regime, “and withdraw funding from providers that do not meet quality standards”;  
  • Increase paid parental leave in the first year of birth;   
  • Introduce a “robust model for subsidised high quality childcare for children aged 9-36 months” through subsidised childcare places; 
  • Continued support for subsidised childcare places for low income families;     
  • A new system to support afterschool care; 
  • Focus on the use of primary school buildings for afterschool;     
  • Streamlining existing subsidy schemes to make them more accessible for both parents and providers;   
  • Investing in the professionalisation of the workforce, including CPD;   
  • Recognition for “informal childcare” and support for a “phased programme of reforms for childminders”.  


Brief Comments 

Early Childhood Ireland welcomes the publication of the Programme for Government.  We welcome the new commitment to review the cost of providing quality childcare, and that this review will be independent.  This is essential if we are to address the problem where many settings are unsustainable and unviable.  We particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a new subsidy for childcare for children aged under three, which firmly states that it will be done through subsidised childcare places, rather than through tax relief.  These advances were the result of significant advocacy work by Early Childhood Ireland and our members in advance of and after the General Election.    

We are concerned about how some aspects of the Programme might be implemented, for example the proposal to make greater use of primary school buildings for afterschool provision, which may create displacement of existing provision and may not suit many children.  There are also a number of issues and proposals pursued by Early Childhood Ireland that don’t feature in the Programme for Government, for example provision for ‘non-contact time’, which we will pursue further.  

We look forward to working with Government and the new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to ensure that we can truly transform early education and care for the benefit of children, which must be undertaken in partnership with providers and parents.   

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