ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Children's Risky Play(Barnardos, 2011) BarnardosThe concept of risky play may sound at odds with our desire for young children to be nurtured in a safe environment, however as the many contributors to this issue of Childlinks contend, risky or adventurous play is an inherent part of children’s play and needs to be incorporated in the early years setting. Key themes which recur throughout the articles include: The theory of risky play; The benefits of risky play for children; The balance between risk and safety; Challenges for staff practice; The importance of partnership with parents. I am delighted that Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter from Norway, one of the leading theorists and researchers in this field, has contributed an article which explores the benefits of risky play for children as well as the challenging issues of regulation, legislation and staff practice in early years settings. Marie Willoughby from Barnardos provides guidance on managing risk and planning opportunities for risky play that are developmentally appropriate and yet challenging. Marc Armitage shares some of the learning from the UK and elsewhere. Armitage advocates four risky activities which early years settings should incorporate, including the experience of fire, which on first reading which might sound very challenging for some people. Sara Knight writes about the philosophy and practice of the Forest Schools in the UK. Sally O’Donnell from the Glen Outdoor School in Co. Donegal gives an account of the development of this early years service and the practical benefits-risk analysis approach they use. Liz O Rourke from the Cairdeas Childcare Centre focuses on the use of their outdoor space and the importance of risk assessments, policies and procedures in ensuring compliance with the pre-school regulations. Finally, Antoinette Gibbs considers risky play in the broader context/concept of psychological, social and emotional risks in the context of the HighScope approach. Thank you to all our contributors for sharing their insights and contributing to the debate and greater understanding of risky play. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Suicide & Families(Barnardos, 2011) BarnardosThere were over 500 deaths by suicide in Ireland in 2010, almost double that of road accident deaths. Death by suicide is the most common cause of death among young men. Most families have been touched by suicide and the devastation that it wreaks on those left behind. This issue of ChildLinks is focused on the theme of understanding suicide, including its prevalence, its mpact on children and families, different cultural attitudes to suicide and the role of suicide prevention training. Dr Dermot Walsh in his article highlights the link between alcohol consumption and suicide rates in the Irish population and concludes that a recent decline in alcohol consumption would appear to have had some effect in the reduction of suicide rates in 2010. Dr Walsh identifies alcohol consumption in Ireland as the most securely identified influence on suicide rates. Recent research on the prevalence of child and youth suicide in the context of the spectrum of deliberate self harm (DSH) is explored in an article by Dr John Fagan and Professor Fiona McNicholas. The need for understanding of the different cultural attitudes to suicide by different ethnic groups is highlighted by Cairde. The role of Suicide Prevention Training under the co-ordination of the National Office for Suicide Prevention and as implemented by a community organisation in Belfast is also explored. The impact of suicide on children and families is explored by Nicola Mitchell from the Barnardos Bereavement Counselling Service. Approximately one quarter of children seen by the service in 2010 had experienced the death of a close relative, most often the father, as a result of suicide. Research has found that children often witness some aspect of the suicide. It is very important that such children and families are supported to come to terms with what has happened. Many workplaces are now taking steps to put in place suicide policies which encompass prevention and intervention. It is essential that professionals working in social services, including early childhood care and education, are appropriately trained in the skills that will equip them to understand suicide issues and to be alert to the possibility of suicide. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Insights into Siolta Implementation(Barnardos, 2011) BarnardosWelcome to the summer edition of ChildLinks, which is focused on sharing insights about the implementation of Síolta. As readers will know, Síolta is the government’s national quality framework for the early years sector. Of course it also belongs to the early years sector who were very much part of its development. The Síolta QAP or Quality Assurance Process is now being piloted in 137 services throughout Ireland. As part of the pilot phase, an evaluation is underway and a report is due by the end of 2011. As Maresa Duignan explains in her article, the evaluation will examine the reliability and validity of the Síolta framework across a range of early years settings. The evaluation is also tasked with identifying the most effective and efficient model of engagement with Síolta for the early years sector. The outcomes of the evaluation will inform the future roll-out of Síolta. It will be challenging but not insurmountable to devise a strategy to bring the Síolta Quality Assurance Process to the 4,000 plus early years services over the coming years. There is a need to simplify some of the tools and processes involved in Síolta in order to make it more user friendly for early years services and hopefully the evaluation will identify some recommendations in this regard. There is also a need to identify ways whereby services that are providing high quality early years care and education can more easily self assess and independently engage with Síolta. Of course we need to highlight the ongoing need for quality supports to services who are struggling to meet the minimum standards of the pre-school regulations. There is a growing body of research which has found that poor quality early years provision can do damage to young children. So the work which the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations do in supporting quality needs to continue alongside the Síolta work. One message is clear from the contributions from childcare managers and practitioners presented in this issue of ChildLinks. The sector is enthusiastic about Síolta as it is supporting reflective practice and the enhancement of quality early years care and education to children. As a childcare manager in Ballymun said: The Síolta QAP so far has made such a difference to our setting in terms of the professional development of our staff, the service we offer to the children and families of our centre and the ethos of our organisation as a whole… To anyone reading this and considering embarking on the Síolta journey, it is a journey worth doing.