Last week we published our Early Childhood Ireland Barometer 2023. Now in its sixth year, Early Childhood Ireland’s Barometer is an annual opinion poll conducted nationwide by RED C to gauge public attitudes to Early Years care and education.
The education of children under 5 is as important as the education of children over 5?
This year’s poll had five ‘tracking’ questions which RED C has asked over several years. The first question, which asked if the education of children under the age of five is as important as the education of those over five, had 71% agreement from ‘all adults’, rising to 76% of women, with 66% of men also agreeing. The poll revealed that those over the age of 65 agreed with the statement most at 79%, while those between the ages of 18 and 24, and 45 and 54 agreed with it the least at 67%. Regionally, 74% of respondents from Munster agreed, as well as 69% from Dublin, 68% from the rest of Leinster, and 74% from Connacht and Ulster.
Similar to primary education in Ireland, childcare should be available free to all children?
77% of all respondents agreed that Early Years education should be available free to all children. This figure was consistent across Ireland, with 76% of Connacht and Ulster agreeing with the statement, as well as 75% of Dublin and 78% of Munster and the rest of Leinster. The desire for free Early Years care was highest among those with young children. 94% of respondents with children up to the age of two reacted positively to the statement, along with 94% with children between the ages of three and five.
Under EU guidelines, Early Years staff who work directly with children must be as qualified as other professionals such as nurses and teachers. When this occurs, the terms and conditions of their employment contract should reflect this?
The poll asked respondents if they agreed that when Early Years staff who work directly with children are as qualified as other professionals such as nurses and teachers, as per EU guidelines, then the terms and conditions of their employment contract should reflect this. 74% answered in the affirmative, with 79% of women agreeing, alongside 68% of men. The level of agreement is consistent across Ireland as well, with 75% of Dublin agreeing, along with 74% of Connacht and Ulster, 77% of Munster, and 70% of the rest of Leinster. Support for this grows as the age of the respondents increases. 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 responded positively to the statement compared to 83% of people over the age of 65.
All parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of the child’s life?
The Barometer shows that while a majority (65%) agrees that parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of the child’s life, 73% of women agreed compared to 56% of men. 89% of respondents with children under five positively responded to the statement compared to 60% of respondents who had no children. 77% of homemakers supported the statement as well, whereas only 56% of retired respondents supported it.
Parents should only pay toward childcare in line with their overall income?
According to Barometer 2023, support to pay for the care of children in line with income grows with age, and there is yet another gender disparity: 61% of women supported this along with 56% of men. 62% of retired respondents agreed that parents should only pay toward the care of their children in line with their overall income compared to 55% of those who work full-time and 66% of those who work part-time. 50% of respondents with children under the age of two agreed with the statement compared to 63% of respondents with children between the ages of three and five. 66% of Connacht and Ulster and 63% of Munster supported the statement compared to 53% of Dublin and 57% of the rest of Leinster.
Overall, this year’s poll confirmed consistently high levels of public support for our sector, its staff, and children. Our team uses the findings of the annual poll to inform our work with policymakers and the tracking questions continue to provide us with valuable insights into the views of significant cross-sections of Irish society, across time. While we saw levels of support in some areas dip or waver during the period of Covid-19 lockdowns, it is heartening to see them rise again in 2022 and again in 2023.
If you have any questions regarding Barometer 2023, please contact our policy team.