Last week, to coincide with the reopening of many Early Years and School Age Care (EY and SAC) settings following the summer break, we reiterated our call for children’s rights to be at the heart of the EY and SAC system in Budget 2024.
Early Childhood Ireland believes that children are being let down because of a decades-long under-investment and a focus on providing Early Years and School Age Care for economic reasons. For years, policy in this area has been underpinned by the needs of adults rather than what children need and deserve. The emphasis has been on facilitating parents’ access to the workforce and the rights of some children have been neglected. Despite increased investment, salary rates are low, but costs for parents are high. Member settings struggle to attract and retain staff and some children are not getting access to the quality Early Years education they deserve.
Our Budget 2024 Proposals
The upcoming Budget gives the Government an opportunity to completely rethink the approach it takes to Early Years and School Age Care. Central to this is a professional, highly qualified workforce to deliver the high-quality care and education that is the right of Ireland’s youngest citizens. We are privileged to have such a workforce, but we need a plan in place to continue to attract more people into and, crucially, retain those already working in settings.
Early Years is the most formative educational experience children have, yet in Ireland, there is no proper planning for its delivery. Other countries operate on two and five-year planning cycles to ensure there are enough places and staff in centres and childminders’ homes. Ireland now needs a plan to create a unified, publicly funded model of Early Years care that incentivises the recruitment and retention of a graduate workforce, is affordable and accessible for parents and places children’s rights and wellbeing at its heart.
Putting a ‘village-style approach’ at the core of Ireland’s Early Years and School Age Care
We are also advocating for the ‘Reggio Emilia Approach’ to be further embraced across the sector. This approach is globally recognised as providing children with high-quality learning experiences. Central to Reggio Emilia is the concept that it takes a village to raise a child; education is a right of all children and, as such, a responsibility of the whole community. This type of thinking is already reflected in Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. We are calling on the Government to take this one step further and support the Reggio Emilia Approach in settings throughout the country. This has the potential to completely transform the Early Years sector, promising a paradigm shift in how we deliver quality experiences to young children.
We were delighted to secure a lot of excellent national and local coverage of our press releases, with The Irish Times and Irish Independent both covering our proposals. Furthermore, we recorded interviews for Newstalk, which were disseminated across the country through its network of stations. Our Director of Policy was delighted to participate in radio interviews in Kildare, Tipperary, and Wexford, while Early Childhood Ireland’s CEO Teresa Heeney was interviewed by Donegal’s Highland Radio. You can listen back to Teresa’s interview here.
The Government has promised a ‘Children’s Budget’ for 2024. To make good on this commitment, they must put children’s rights at the heart of everything. For too long, we have let the needs of adults dictate the type of care delivered to our children. It is now time for our society to recognise that our children deserve so much more.