Welcome 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.
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