ChildLinks Issue 1: Inspections in Early Childhood Education and Care

Barnardos. (2019). ChildLinks Issue 1: Inspections in Early Childhood Education and Care.
Inspections in early childhood education and care settings provide a tool to assess the quality of provision and have great potential to impact positively on children’s early learning experiences. Inspection processes can often also be a positive experience for early years educators, endorsing practice and raising standards. They can, however, bring challenges. Early years services in Ireland have been subject to regulatory inspection for over 20 years since the first pre-school regulations were published in 1996. Since then, settings have been assessed for compliance across a number of areas such as governance; the health, welfare and development of children; the safety and suitability of facilities and premises; and more. Settings in Ireland are also subject to inspection by Pobal to ensure they are adhering to the stated terms of funding programmes such as the ECCE scheme. More recently, early years education inspections have been introduced to evaluate the nature, range and appropriateness of early educational experiences offered to young children. All of these inspections, coupled with a series of other developments in the Irish early years sector in recent years aimed at improving the quality of services for children and families, are to be welcomed, but they come at a rapid pace for early years providers. This issue of ChildLinks considers early years inspections in Ireland from a number of perspectives, looking at both the benefits and the challenges of quality monitoring. In the first article, Helen Rouine, Quality Improvement Manager in Tusla Early Years Inspectorate, gives an overview of Tusla inspections in Ireland and outlines both recent developments, such as the Quality and Regulatory Framework, and future plans. Dr Maresa Duignan, Assistant Chief Inspector Early Years Policy and Practice, then describes the progress to date in the establishment and implementation of early education inspections by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills. Also included in this issue are articles that consider the role of inspections from the perspective of the early years provider. First, the manager of an early years services outlines her recent experiences of inspections and some of the challenges facing ECEC settings in Ireland today. Marian Quinn, Chairperson of the Association of Childhood Professionals, then considers the need for improved working conditions for members of the ECEC and how this links to the inspection system. Finally, Sharon Byrne, Early Years Development Co-Ordinator with Barnardos, considers the role of early years mentors in supporting settings to interpret inspection requirements, reflect on how they are currently meeting standards, set goals and review progress.