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Shared Delivery Models for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare

The Workforce Development Plan

March 22, 2021

The national early years strategy, ‘First 5’, includes a range of actions to improve the quality of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC). The strategy recognises that the workforce is at the heart of quality and it commits to building “an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional workforce that is supported and valued and reflects the diversity of babies, young children and their families”. Underpinning this is the commitment to a “Workforce Development Plan (WDP) to ensure the appropriate number of Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare staff at all levels in the sector (…) The WDP will also set out plans to raise the profile of careers in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare, establish a career framework and leadership development opportunities and will work towards building a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce”. In addition, First 5 commits to promoting and supporting the registration and training of childminders.

The work towards the Workforce Development Plan was designed to happen in two stages – both of which to be overseen by a Steering Group. The Steering Group reports to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and has the ultimate role of making recommendations on mechanisms to monitor and review the implementation of the WDP over the period 2020-2028. Teresa Heeney, Early Childhood Ireland’s CEO was appointed to the Steering Group by the previous Minister, Katherine Zappone.

The Workforce Development Plan has just entered its second phase, which involved the setting up of various Working Groups to examine particular themes:

  • Career Framework and Career Pathways
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Promotion and Regulation of the Profession
  • Qualifications and Training for School Age Childcare
  • Training and Supports for Childminders

Each working group is composed of stakeholders, which include providers, academics, NGOs, staff representatives and employer bodies. Early Childhood Ireland is participating in all of them. This work is expected to be completed by mid-2021. Each group will develop proposals for consideration by the Steering Group – including rationale, approach to implementation (given the current workforce context), timelines for reform, initial actions, financial implications and trade-offs.

Minister O’Gorman has recently spoken about the subject, stating that “I am very aware of the pressures that childcare professionals are under (…) I have talked to childcare professionals and heard how they feel that having gone through significant training and education to take up the role, they are not rewarded. They feel they do not have any career prospects. That is why we are trying to bring together the workforce development plan, the expert funding model and the work we are doing on the joint labour committee. It can never happen fast enough – I fully understand that and know that childcare professionals have been waiting a long time – but in the sphere of what we are doing in this part of my Department, this is an absolute priority.”

Early Childhood Ireland will keep members updated about this important work.

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