ChildLinks Issue 3: Research in Early Childhood Care and Education

Barnardos. (2010). ChildLinks Issue 3: Research in Early Childhood Care and Education.
Two important documents to do with the future of early childhood care and education in Ireland were launched in December, which, in the Christmas rush, received little public attention. I am referring firstly to the National Strategic Plan 2011–2013, Early Childhood Care and Education and secondly to the Workforce Development Plan. The National Strategic Plan provides a framework for the delivery of early childhood care and education programmes which support children and families for the next three years. Included in the Strategy are many actions which Barnardos has been calling for for many years such as the full implementation of Children First in the early years sector, the introduction of regulations for school age childcare, greater efforts to ensure the inclusion of children with additional needs, as well actions to support the quality of school age and early years provision. Barnardos welcomes the National Strategy as it gives direction to the work of the OMCYA, the National Voluntary Childcare organisations, and the City and County Childcare Committees in promoting quality early childhood care and provision in the medium term. At the same time, it is disappointing that the Strategy makes no commitment to the extension of the free pre-school year nor does it provide for the introduction of regulations for childminding, which is the childcare option for the majority of children. The Workforce Development Plan is welcome in that it provides a focus for ensuring that the early years workforce will have the appropriate training and skills needed to provide quality experiences for children. The Plan addresses important issues such as practitioner access to flexible, affordable, accredited learning opportunities, the importance of recognition of prior learning and the need to ensure consistent quality of courses, all of which can be problematic for practitioners. One criticism of the Plan would be the absence of specific targets and timeframes for the implementation of the Plan. What would help the early years sector to take up the challenges of the Plan would be the provision of a transition training fund to support the upskilling of practitioners. It should be possible to reallocate some of the millions which are currently spent on childcare training towards such a transition fund.