Publication of the Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report 2020/21

Publication of the Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report 2020/21
How should we compare early learning and care systems?

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has published the 2020/21 Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report. The Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report provides an overview of the Irish Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) sector for the 2020/21 programme year.

Pobal has been carrying out the Annual Early Years Service Profile survey for the past 19 years. It is developed and published by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY). As the primary data source for the sector, it informs Government policy decisions and assesses the impact of policy change on Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) in Ireland. The report is structured around the key issues relevant to the ELC and SAC sector such as fees, places and capacity, staff wages, staff qualifications and staff turnover and service detail and provision.

The introduction makes mentions of the impacts of COVID-19 on the sector. The pandemic is clearly visible in some of the trends identified throughout the report; for example in the numbers of children enrolled. It also references the key policy developments for the sector including the publication of Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC), Partnership for the Public Good: A New Funding Model for ELC and SAC and the new Core Funding stream. The 2020/21 Annual Early Years Service Profile survey was completed by 2,520 or 57% of ELC and SAC services, compared with a 65% response rate in the 2019/20 Sector Profile.

 

Key Data Insights:

Programme enrolment in ELC and SAC services

In 2020/21, 169,579 children participated in at least one of the government’s funding programmes, down by 6% on the previous year and by 9% in 2018/19. 84% of children enrolled across ELC and SAC services received State subsidies. The total number of ELC and SAC services contracted to deliver at least one of the four DCEDIY funding programmes was 4,527, a decrease of 163 services (4%) since the previous year.

  • 74% of ELC/SAC services are for-profit organisations and 26% operated on a not-for-profit basis
  • The proportion of services located in rural areas and urban areas also remained the same at 35% and 65% respectively.
  • Half of all services that responded to the survey had a capacity of 40 places or below in their service.
  • On average, services operated 2.5 care rooms with 14 children or below, using such rooms over the course of a typical day.
  • 26% of respondents were charged commercial rates in 2020/21. A 1% increase on 2019/20 when the lowest proportion (25%) was recorded since 2014/15.
  • Nationally, the average rate that services were billed for in 2020/21 was €4,093 which represents a reduction of 10% from €4,546 in 2019/20.

Inclusion and Disability

  • 2,045 services were supported under AIM, with 4222 children availing of support – a decrease of 16% and 26% respectively on 2019/20.
  • 75% of services have at least one child with additional needs attending. 7% of all children attending have additional needs.
  • The proportion of services with at least one Traveller or Roma child attending decreased by 1% and 2% respectively.

Capacity

  • The overall estimated capacity of the sector is 220,500 an increase of 1% from last year.
  • The increase in the estimated number of vacant places is 26,491 almost matches the no of children enrolled at 24,736.
  • 57% of services reported at least 1 vacant place compared to 24% two years ago.
  • 38,935 estimated vacant places, up 213% compared with the 2019/20 profile.
  • The vacancy rate in 2020/21 was 21%, most notable in older age groups.
  • 181,565 Children were enrolled in ELC and SAC services, a 12% decrease in 2019/20

Notably, the age group of up to 1 year had the highest percentage of children on waiting lists compared with children enrolled. 1,960 babies under 1 were on waiting lists compared with 1241 that were enrolled.

Fees
In 2020/21, the average weekly fee nationally per child for a full day was €186.84, for part-time was €110.92 and for sessional was €74.20. The fees for all types of provision remained almost the same with less than 0.5% increases for all types of care compared to 2019/20.

Staff Overall
There are an estimated 31,600 staff working in the sector of whom 26,197 work directly with children. An increase of 2% on 2019/20.

  • The average number of staff per service increased from 7 to 7.2
  • 93% of staff are directly employed
  • 97% of staff working in ELC had an NFQ Level 5 qualification or higher.
  • Staff turnover is 19%, an increase of 1% in 2019/20
  • 57% of services retained all their staff, while 70% of smaller services retained all their staff.

The COVID-19 effects on the sector continued and were particularly visible in the number of children enrolled and vacant places. Fees remained relatively unchanged while there was a significant increase in the number of staff with an NFQ Level 7 Qualification and above. The average wages grew very slightly by 1% and the sector’s enduring challenge in recruiting and retaining staff has continued, despite staff turnover rates not having increased visibly.

Early Childhood Ireland will be responding to some of the insights outlined by the latest Sector Profile. If you have any questions or would like to engage with us, please contact our policy team

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