– Early Childhood Ireland calls for ambitious new approach as Early Years settings reopen.
Ireland’s children are being let down because of a decades-long focus on providing childcare for economic reasons. That’s according to Early Childhood Ireland, which has called on the Government and policymakers to ‘completely rethink’ their approach to Early Years and School Age Care .
Commenting ahead of the reopening of many Early Years settings after the summer break, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland, said: “For years, policy in this area has been underpinned by economic requirements, rather than what children need and deserve. The emphasis has been on facilitating parents’ access to the workforce and providing a much-needed service for adults. In the midst of all that, the rights of the child have been neglected.
“The consequences of this failure have been well-documented: salary rates are low but costs for parents are high; settings struggle to attract and retain staff; and some children are not getting access to the quality Early Years education they deserve.
“The upcoming Budget gives the Government an opportunity to completely rethink the approach they take to Early Years care and education. In recent years, there has been increased investment in the sector – something that was sorely needed and much welcomed. We must, however, ensure investment is geared towards building a fit-for-purpose system that places children’s rights and wellbeing at its heart.”
According to Early Childhood Ireland, a professional, highly qualified workforce is essential to deliver the high-quality care and education that is the right of Ireland’s youngest citizens.
“Early Years is the most formative educational experience children have, yet in Ireland there is no proper planning for its delivery,” said Frances Byrne. “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 – crucially – places children’s rights and wellbeing at its heart.”
Putting a ‘village-style approach’ at the core of Ireland’s Early Years
Early Childhood Ireland is advocating for the ‘Reggio Emilia Approach’ to be further adopted across the Early Years 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,” said Frances Byrne. “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.
“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 time, now, for us to recognise that our children deserve so much more.”