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Pobal Early Years Profile 2017/2018 – Part Two

Pobal Sector Profile 2017/18

December 11, 2018

Last Friday, Early Childhood Ireland was delighted to welcome Dr Ela Hogan from Pobal to present the main findings of this year’s Early Years Sector Profile 2017/18 to our staff team here in our Tallaght offices.

This year’s Profile outlines the continued expansion of the early years sector and centre-based care. At the same time, there are growing challenges in the capacity of the sector that will need to be addressed with strategic planning.
The threat of the staffing crisis to the sustainability of the early years sector is evident in the latest Early Years Sector Profile. Early Childhood Ireland is particularly concerned at the high turnover rate of 24.7% for early years staff. Additionally, early years providers indicated nearly half of those leaving their jobs in settings are leaving the early years sector (43%).

The Early Years Sector Profile is a fundamental source of information for the early years sector. Each year Early Childhood Ireland looks forward to analysing the Profile, which tracks the impact of recent developments in our sector and provides evidence for the basis of future policy changes.

We are really encouraged by the dedication of our sector to achieving evidence-based policy. This year’s survey received the highest response rate yet from over 3,900 settings (88% of the sector). There is also new data in this year’s Profile on issues such as relief staff and staff retention.

This 2017/18 edition of the Profile focuses on sector capacity, fees, staff wages, qualifications and staff turnover in the early years sector. As there is so much important information in the Profile report that may interest members, we have broken down some of the main findings into a two-part Early Times Weekly series. Below are some of the main findings on capacity, enrolment, and staff qualifications.


Capacity and Enrolment
The overall estimated capacity of the sector has increased by 6% to 213,654 places. Yet this growth in supply is lower than the increase in demand, as the number of children attending early years services has increased by 9% on the previous year. An estimated 202,633 children attended early years services nationwide during 2017/18, the largest increase was seen in children aged 5 years and over (20%) and children aged 3-5 years are the largest age group enrolled.

In addition, the number of vacant places continues to fall, decreasing by 31% since 2016/17. Only 24% of services reported having at least one vacant place and not all of these will be where they are needed. This means strategic planning will be required to offset the capacity challenges for the sector.

Over the programme year 2017/18, 185,580 children availed of one of the three Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA)-funded programmes: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) (including CCS, CCSPlus and CCSU) and Training and Employment Childcare (TEC). This represents an increase of 24% (36,154) on the previous year. This growth was mainly due to the introduction of the universal subsidy (CCSU) and a growth in the number of children participating in CCS, both in community and private settings.

We are delighted that the majority of children are taking up their ECCE place and we will continue to monitor the developments in enrolments, such as the impact of the growing number of children availing of the CCS programme in private services.


Early Years Staff – Numbers and Qualification Level
Approximately 29,555 staff work in the early years sector, the majority of which (88%) work directly with children. This is an increase of 8% on the previous year, in line with the increase in the number of children enrolled (9%). 859 staff provide relief cover, comprising 3.7% of all staff working directly with children.

Early Childhood Ireland is delighted that the qualification level of early years staff is increasing. 94% of all staff working directly with children have a NFQ Level 5 qualification or higher and 65% of staff have a NFQ Level 6 or higher. At present, the report shows that 14.2% of staff have a Level 8 qualification; a slight increase on last year but a step closer to the goal of a graduate-led early years work force as outlined in the First 5 strategy.

5% of staff in 2017/18 (1,098 staff) have signed the Grandfather Declaration. This declaration states their intention to resign or retire before September 2021 as they do not have the required minimum NFQ Level 5 qualification. We will continue to monitor the impact of the exit of 5% of staff from the early years workforce by September 2021.


In next week’s Early Times Weekly, we will take a closer look at the Early Years Sector Profile findings on recruitment and retention of early years staff, employment conditions, commercial rates, fees and inclusion and diversity in the sector.

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