Supporting Quality: Guidelines for Best Practice in Early Childhood Services

French, G. (2000). Supporting Quality: Guidelines for Best Practice in Early Childhood Services.
There has been considerable development of early childhood services in Ireland in recent years, fuelled both by the growing recognition of their potential benefits to children and by labour market and employment equality concerns. In this respect we have come rather late, relative to other member states of the European Union, to recognising the need to develop a child care infrastructure to underpin such development and that, in terms of provision, quality counts. Nevertheless, a great deal of progress has been made since the mid-1990s, particularly in encouraging a growth in supply and in building the capacity of providers. The publication of these Guidelines is a very significant contribution towards this continuing development. Barnardos has long had a commitment to supporting the development of quality services for children of all ages. We have a particular expertise in the provision of early childhood services and have also offered extensive training, consultancy and information to other service providers over the years. Our National Children’s Resource Centre has been an avenue through which a mine of literature on international best practice in early childhood services could be accessed. However we were increasingly conscious of the need for indigenous written material, particularly for a comprehensive step-by-step guide, which would include legal and other requirements particular to Ireland and which would be helpful to providers. The resultant publication has, | believe, exceeded even our ambitious aspirations. It is possibly one of the most important publications to date concerning early childhood services in Ireland. At once practical and inspiring, it encompasses just about everything a service provider could want or need to know - and in a most accessible format. From ethos and culture of the service, through choosing toys and planning activities, the involvement of parents, to maintaining personnel files, the reader is guided in clear and unambiguous terms. The text is also usefully interspersed with useful references to international literature. All of which, of course, is a tribute to the author, Geraldine French, who could not be more highly regarded or respected by her colleagues in Barnardos. Yet even we are impressed by the remarkable breadth of these Guidelines and their production within deadline. Geraldine may be assured that she has made a substantial contribution to the well-being of children in early childhood settings for many years to come. The Guidelines, however, would never have been produced without the support of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the European Social Fund under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme. Their recognition of the need for, and their commitment to, the development of an infrastructure and the dissemination of information as key elements of assuring quality early childhood services, is important and welcome.