From September 2015, Early Childhood Ireland will begin to engage with settings nationally that meet the criteria outlined below to participate in the Formal Síolta Quality Assurance Programme. These settings will be supported by an Early Childhood Ireland Síolta mentor along with other local supports outlined below. The aim is to make the Programme accessible to settings that are ready to engage, no matter where you are located.
For most settings the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme will take 18 – 24 months to complete. Defining, assessing and developing quality requires commitment and effort from the whole childcare team as they build the setting’s portfolio by describing their practice under each of the Standards and Components of Síolta and providing evidence of this quality practice.
This will require varying amounts of non-contact time for reflecting, planning, implementing and documenting, depending on the current level of quality practice within the setting. For this reason, it is really important that the setting has the support of management and staff to engage with this programme and also can identify some members of staff who are prepared to take the lead in this work. Settings need to commit to a programme of relevant training and on-site support visits and be ready to embark on a journey of reflection and self-assessment guided by the Síolta Framework. This process involves additional work and commitment from the entire team.
If you are interested in joining the Quality journey and would like to work towards Síolta Validation for your service, please complete the application form.
- The formal Síolta Quality Assurance programme involves an ECCE setting committing to the process of self-evaluation, reflection, planning and implementing changes and also developing a portfolio by describing and collecting evidence of the quality of their practice, supported by a Síolta mentor.
The Síolta mentor will confirm the quality practices already present in the setting, discussing possible improvements and help identify any training or improvements needed.
Síolta Quality Assurance Spiral
- The setting works through the 16 standards of Síolta, using them to reflect on, and if necessary, improve the quality of their practice.
- When the setting is ready to submit their completed portfolio for validation the Síolta mentor will submit the application to the Early Years Education Policy Unit. The Early Years Education Policy unit will allocate a Síolta validator to the setting. The appointed validator will then make contact with the setting to begin the process of validation.
- Validation involves an assessment of the portfolio submitted and a pre-arranged on-site visit to the setting to validate the level of quality within the setting.
The Formal Síolta Quality Assurance programme offers you an opportunity to identify the good practice already in place and also offers guidance as you work towards delivering a higher quality service. It helps to keep you focused and to measure your progress. This can be very affirming, motivating, supportive and encouraging for a staff team.
Many settings like to have evidence that shows the quality of their practice and a certificate to prove it. Parents gain confidence from the certification. Some settings are more than happy to share their journey with other early years educators.
Settings enjoy the support from Early Childhood Ireland. Small changes or improvements lead to more job satisfaction, confidence in the face of inspections, happier, more involved children and a sense of pride and achievement.
Some members being presented with the Early Childhood Ireland Síolta QAP Award by Professor Nóirín Hayes at our annual conference, April, 2015:
Who should apply?
Settings that have:
- Received validation more than 2 years ago and need to be revalidated. Síolta validation lasts for 3 years. It may be time to resubmit and update your validation.
- Already engaged in an Aistear-in-Action or other programme that has helped to develop your curriculum
- Access to mentoring support within their settings /organisations or networks that can help them along the way
- Already engaged in a significant amount of training /workshops in their local areas and now feel they are ready to work through a process of self-assessment towards validation.
N.B. Membership of Early Childhood Ireland is mandatory.
Early Childhood Ireland will offer the following supports:
An Early Childhood Ireland Síolta Mentor will work with participating services in each of the 4 provinces and in Dublin. This Síolta mentor will offer onsite support visits to these services during the programme.
- The ECI Síolta mentor will offer support via phone, email etc.
- ECI will also provide online supports – including the Informal Síolta Online Programme that introduces educators to all the elements of Síolta – and online training sessions and podcasts.
- ECI has a cohort of trainers nationally who can (i) deliver affordable workshops on areas of practice where participants need support and (ii) facilitate network support meeting among participating settings.
- ECI will support settings in accessing the existing local supports from, for example, the Better Start Quality Support Service and County Childcare Committees as well as from other settings that have already engaged in the process.
- The Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Science is responsible for validating settings. The ECI Síolta mentor will guide them through the process