Policy Brief – Preparations for Early Childhood Ireland’s sixth annual Barometer

Policy Brief – Preparations for Early Childhood Ireland’s sixth annual Barometer
Early Childhood Ireland Policy Brief

As the year winds down, we are preparing for our sixth annual Barometer, which will take place in the first quarter of 2023.

Barometer 22

Our most recent barometer, which was published in February 2022, revealed a number of interesting results. 80% of people in Ireland believe that all children have a right to to free, high quality and accessible Early Years care and education. Three-quarters of people in Ireland (75%) believe that, like primary school education, Early Years care and education should be free. This represents a steep rise in support for publicly-funded provision – the equivalent figure in the 2021 Barometer was 61%.

In addition to measuring public sentiment on children’s right to high-quality Early Years services, the Barometer also shows strong support for the sector’s workforce. Just under three-quarters of respondents (73%) agree that staff who work directly with children and are as qualified as other professions such as nurses and teachers, should have terms and conditions which reflect this. People in Ireland understand that having properly-qualified and appropriately-compensated staff is a critical marker of a high-quality care and education system. Our poll found that it’s grandparents who know this more than anyone. 81% of those aged over-65 agree that professional Early Years educators should be paid in line with their expertise.

International Benchmark

Prior to this year’s budget, Ireland was one of Europe’s lowest investors in Early Years services. When asked in January 2022, 72% of people believed that government should significantly increase investment in line with international benchmarks. This view was held across all demographics, regions and age-groups, including among those who don’t have children of their own.

In addition to these annual results, it’s interest to look at the year-on year national data and see what trends emerge. Early Childhood Ireland’s 2022 Barometer contains a number of findings on questions we have been polling since 2018, including:

  • 71% of people believe that the education of children under five is as important as the education of children over five, an increase of 9% from the 2021 result (62%).
  • 62% of adults believe parents should only pay toward childcare in line with their overall income. There is broad support for this across all regions.
  • 63% believe parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of the child’s life. There was a notable gender divide in responses to this statement, with 71% of women in agreement, compared to 56% of men.

As pandemic restrictions were eased, it is perhaps unsurprising that the poll found a heightened awareness among the public of just how important quality Early Years and School Age Care education is. We are heartened by the consistent support across age, region and other demographics over the five years that we’ve been conducting this poll.

Early Childhood Ireland’s Vision

Early Childhood Ireland’s vision is for an Ireland where every young child is thriving in centre-based and childminding settings. It is very heartening to see the Irish public’s consistent support of Early Years over the five years we’ve been commissioning this poll. In every community, the essential services that our sector provides are highly valued, and the vast majority of the population believes that every child has a fundamental right to access high-quality, affordable Early Years care and education.

Early Years care and education is already valued by the Irish public in the same way as primary and secondary education. Politicians must follow the public’s lead and act fearlessly to put children’s needs into action. Quality for children should be at the centre of policies in this area, ensuring that every child has access to high-quality Early Years education and care and School Age care whether it be in settings or in childminders homes. This vital public good should no longer be a neglected political afterthought, but an essential cornerstone of Ireland’s education system.

Next year’s poll is due to take place during the first quarter of 2023. It will include questions on topics such as the right to Early Years education, how Ireland’s Early Years and School Age Care sector should be funded and what supports should be provided to parents.

If you would like to know more about this poll, or speak to us about our work, please get in touch with our Policy, Advocacy and Campaigning team at policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie.

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