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History Of The ECCE Sector In Ireland Essay


In this assignment I will outline and discuss the Historical Development of the ECEC sector in Ireland. ECEC is the Early Childhood Education and Care division in Ireland. I will give a clear explanation of the rights of a child in the context of the ECEC setting. I will also give a detailed accountant of the ECEC sector and its range of occupation. I will give a detailed description of the qualifications and experience needed for work associated with one occupation in the ECEC. Finally, I will give an extensive examination of the employment and career opportunities in the childcare area.

History of ECEC provision in Ireland.

Pre-school education did not really exist in Ireland until the 1980s and 1990s. This was largely due to the fact that until quite recently the majority of Irish women did not work outside the home. Even if they did, childcare was usually provided by family members or child-minder’s located in the community and known to the family. The marriage bar meant that women working in the public service had to leave their jobs as soon as they got married and become stay-at-home mothers and wives. This ban was lifted in 1957 for primary school teachers, but it was 1973 before the ban was lifted for other women in the public service. The ECEC needs of babies, young children and their families were met instead by a broad range of community, voluntary and private enterprise. ECEC service provision was unregulated until 1997.

When the child care regulations 2006 came into effect, no stipulation as made regarding the qualifications necessary to deliver such services beyond the person having their own children, a reference to show appropriate experience in caring for children and/or an appropriate qualification. One important initiative came from the public sector in 1969, with the opening of a state-run pre-school in Rutland street Dublin. The Department of Education worked with the Van Leer Foundation- an organisation that promotes the early education of children living in economically disadvantaged areas. Together, they set up the pre-school in Rutland Street as a template for other such pre-schools around the country. These pre-schools were known as Early Start pre-schools. A total of 40 pre-schools opened nationally- all of which are still open today. In 1992, Ireland ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child. This helped to bring to public consciousness the rights of children. And in 2000, the Department of Health and Children published the National Children’s strategy.

This strategy set out a ten-year plan for the improvement of children’s lives in Ireland. One of the goals of the National Children’s Strategy is that children will receive quality supports and services to promote all aspects of their development. The strategy aims to fulfil this by providing quality childcare services and family-friendly employment measures. There have been many other significant initiatives and decisions in Ireland in recent years in an attempt to respond to the demand for equality in ECEC. In 1989 the National Forum on Early Childhood Education was established. This brought together organisations and individuals with an interest in early childhood education. In 1999 the National Voluntary Childcare Collaborative was established. Today the organisation comprises seven national non-government agencies decimated to the promotion of ECEC in Ireland. Also in 1999 the White Paper on Early Childhood Education, Ready to Learn as established.

The purpose of this was to set out government policy on all issues relating to early childhood education. Quality of provision was the key theme of the White Paper. In 2002 the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education was established. CECDE aimed to achieve the goals set out in the ready to learn (1999). The organisation was disbanded in 2008, when it was seen by the government to have achieved everything it was set up to do. The Child Care (Pre-School) regulations were established in 2006. The regulations clearly list all the requirements that must be met by organisations or individuals providing ECEC services to children aged 0-6. Síolta was established in 2006.

The Síolta framework was developed by CECDE in a process that took over three years and involved more than 50 different organisations representing childcare workers, teachers, parents, policymakers and researchers. Síolta aims to define, asses and support the improvement of quality across all aspects of practice in ECEC settings that cater for children ages 0-6. Aistear was established in 2009. In 1999, the NCCA published the Primary School Curriculum, which did direct and regulate the curriculum followed in infant classes. In 2009, the NCCA published Aistear. The ultimate aim of Aistear is the development of the whole child.

Free Pre-School Year Programme.

In 2010, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs introduced the Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education Programme. Before this, it was only children in disadvantaged areas who could avail of free or subsidised pre-school education. The Free Pre-School Year Programme recognises that all children benefit from equality pre-school education. The programme recognises that because pre-school education in Ireland usually comes from private providers, it is expensive and therefore not available to all children, e.g. children of parent’s not working outside the home. Under the programme, pre-school provider are paid per child enrolled. The providers must meet certain criteria before entering the scheme, e.g. staff qualifications. This has had the effect of incentivising providers to meet criteria, which in turn has increased the quality of provision.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an internationally binding agreement on the rights of children, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989. A child is defined in the UNCRC as a person under the age of 18. Ireland signed the convention on 30th September 1990 and ratified it on 28th September 1992. By ratifying the convention, the irish state committed itself to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of children’s rights as outlined by the convention. The convention incorporates children’s rights under three categories:

Civil and political.

Social, economic and cultural.

In the ECCE settings children have the right to experience environments which meet their own specific needs. High quality early childhood programmes do not separate care from education or education from care. They provide warm, caring and stimulating environments for children. Children are deeply involved in their own learning, supported by a knowledgeable, observant staff in an environment structured to drive exploration and discovery. Equality refers to the importance of recognising different individual needs and of ensuring equity in terms of access, participation and benefits for all children and their families. Diversity refers to the diverse nature of Irish society for example in terms of social class, gender, returned Irish emigrants, family status, minority groups and the majority group. According to the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 diversity and equality Guidelines for Childcare Providers the term minority group includes but is not limited to;

People with a disability

The traveller community
Economic migrants
Black Irish
Irish-language speakers
Asylum seekers
Children with gay or lesbian parents
Families of minority religious faith

Under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004, discrimination is prohibited on nine grounds;

Material status
Family status
Sexual orientation
Religious belief
Membership of the Traveller community

As a result of the multifaceted population in Ireland, practitioners work with children from minority groups and it is their task to ensure that they are integrated well into education and all children are treated equally. Equality and Diversity is just as important in childhood as the concept is in adulthood and included in many childcare documents to ensure best practice. The National Childcare Strategy gives guidelines on promoting equality and diversity in ECEC setting, as follows. Provides CDs of children’s songs in a number of different languages. The language will focus on English and Irish but educators can also include different languages from different cultures. Children can listen to them in the classroom on a regular basis. It is surprising how quickly children will pick up on new languages.

Allow children regular access to art materials with which they can paint, draw and colour different images that incorporate a range of skin tones. Children can talk about their images when they are finished. Provide toys or images familiar to an individual child so that a sense of belonging is fostered. Items that represent diversity will benefit all children in the ECEC setting. Display pictures of children and their families around the classroom. Pictures should be displayed at the children’s level, so that they can see the images whenever they wish. When the children look at such images, there is an opportunity for them to chat about similarities and differences. Provide a wide range of children’s books that show images of diverse people and their lives. Recent books are unlikely to have stereotypical roles seen in books from previous times. Many books will provide pictures of children from minority groups; children will be curious about pictures with other children in them.

Pre-school regulations.

Early childhood care and education services are regulated by legally binding requirements. These are the Pre-school Regulations, which first appeared in 1996 and have been updated with effect from January 2007. The main purpose of these regulations is to ensure that standards are in place to safeguard the health and welfare of children in pre-school services and to promote their development through the provision of developmentally and culturally appropriate materials, experiences, activities and interactions.

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006 and the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 are made under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 and prescribe the measures which must be in place to meet the requirements of the Act. The Regulations include an Explanatory Guide to Requirements and Procedures for Notification and Inspection which offers guidance on good practice in relation to areas covered by the Regulations which include the following: Health, welfare and development of the child

A person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that each child’s learning, development and well-being is facilitated within the daily life of the service through the provision of the appropriate opportunities, experiences, activities, interaction, materials and equipment, having regard to the age and stage of development of the child and the child’s cultural context. First aid and medical assistance

There should be a suitably equipped first-aid box for children and arrangements to call medical assistance in an emergency. Management and staffing
The law makes provision that a person carrying out a pre-school service must ensure that a sufficient number of suitable and competent adults are working directly with the children at all times. (“Suitable and competent”adults are adults aged over 18 with adequate appropriate experience in caring for children under 6 years and/or who have appropriate qualifications to care for these children). There should be appropriate vetting of all staff, students and volunteers who have access to a child by obtaining references and Garda vetting.

*When a full day care service also takes children not on a full day basis, sessional service adult numbers apply. Note: The above ratios may not apply if the service is participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme. The Child and Family Agency can limit the maximum number of pre-school children who may be catered for at the same time. This provision is aimed at preventing over-crowding in pre-school services. If the Child and Family Agency proposes to limit numbers, the provider will be notified and has the opportunity to appeal or make representations about this decision.

Behaviour management

Anyone providing a pre-school childcare service should ensure that no corporal punishment is inflicted on any child attending the service. There should be written policies and procedures to deal with and to manage a child’s challenging behaviour and to assist the child to manage his or her behaviour. Register of pre-school children

A pre-school childcare provider should keep a register with details of each child attending the service including name, date of birth, contact numbers for parents and child’s doctors. Information for parents

Parents should be given information about the service including details of the person in charge and other staff, the adult/child ratios, the maximum numbers and age range of the children, the type of care, facilities, opening hours and fees.

Premises and facilities

Pre-school services (including child-minders, drop-in centres, crèches, etc.) are obliged to ensure their standards meet certain standards and provide certain facilities. These rules include ensuring that: The premises are of sound and stable structure and are suitable for providing pre-school services Adequate space per child is provided in the premises

Fixtures, premises and fittings are kept in a proper state of repair and in a clean and hygienic condition and protected from infestation Furniture, work and play surfaces are clean, suitable, non-toxic and retained in a proper state of repair. There are adequate and suitable facilities for a pre-school child to rest and to play indoors and outdoors during the day Pre-school childcare providers are required to ensure that the building has suitable and adequate heating, ventilation and lighting; sanitary accommodation, waste storage and disposal Safety measures

Adequate arrangements must be in place for extinguishing fires. Staff must be trained in use of equipment. Staff and pre-school children should know evacuation and other procedures. All heat-emitting surfaces in the premises have fixed guards or are thermostatically controlled. Gardens and play areas are fenced and doors and gates secured to prevent children straying. Ponds, pits and other hazards are fenced to ensure children’s safety.

Food and drink

A pre-school service should ensure that suitable, sufficient, nutritious and varied food is available for a pre-school child attending the service and there should be adequate and suitable facilities for the storage, preparation, cooking and serving of food, and adequate and suitable eating utensils. Handwashing, wash-up and sterilising facilities should be provided. The Department of Health’s Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Pre-School Services (pdf) advise that children in day care for more than 5 hours per session (full day care) should be offered at least 2 snacks and 2 meals, including one hot meal.


The provider should ensure that the pre-school children are adequately insured against injury while attending the service.

ECEC Services Currently Available in Ireland.

The types of ECEC services currently available in Ireland can be organised under these headings; Sessional services – which provide ECEC services for a set period of time during the day. E.g. 9am-1pm. Full time services- which provide ECEC services throughout the day. Part-time services – which provide ECEC services for a total of 3.5 hours and less than 5 hours a day.

Sessional services include;
Montessori schools
Early start
Pre-school for traveller children
Pre-schools for children with special needs
Parent and toddler groups
Full-time services include;
Day care centres

Occupations within the childcare sector.
Nursery nurses
Playgroup leaders
Educational/special needs assistants
Childcare manager/supervisor
Montessori teacher
Au pair

Childcare manager.

These practitioners ensure that the care and education of the children is being maintained at all times. They take care of any issues that arise and they are in direct contact with parents. They are responsible for the day-to-day running of the childcare facility. This role requires childcare qualifications as well as experience in the area. The role also requires excellent interpersonal and organisation skills and the ability to manage a team of employees.

A career plan.

Short term goals.

My current short term goals are to complete this QQI level 5 childcare course. I aim to get 8 distinctions so I can go onto third level after in September. I finish this course on the 8th of May. For the summer I hope to get a part-time job somewhere working with children. In September I hope to attend Cork Institute of Technology to study early year’s education. This course is a three year course with a level 7 degree. Between now and September I hope to gain loads of experience with working with children as I feel I learn better by gaining practical experience. Within the next few months, I also hope to have completed a first aid course as it is essential to be trained in first aid when working with children also it looks good on your curriculum vitae.

Medium term goals.

In September I hope to attend Cork Institute of Technology to begin studying Early year’s education which is a duration of three years and you qualify with a level 7 degree. As this course will take up a lot of my time, I won’t have enough time for a full time job. I will need to fund my way through college though, so every chance I get I will be working, be it baby sitting or working in a restaurant. I would certainly rather it be a job working with children as the more experience I get the better knowledge and understanding of the work in a childcare setting I will have. During these three years in college I hope to do a lot of charity work also, for child line, Barnardos and maybe even the Jack and Jill foundation, again all of this would be a great experience but also it would feel wonderful to be a part of trying to make disadvantaged children’s lives a bit better.

Long term goals.

Hopefully in 2018 I’ll b graduating from Cork Institute of Technology with my level 7 degree in early year’s education. When I have graduated and have my degree I hope to take a year out and go Au pairing in America, I’m very interested in it and I have done a lot of research on it but I think right now I am a bit too young and I will wait until I have got my degree and I’m that little bit older. My heart is set on Au pairing, I think it would be a fantastic experience and also it would look very good on my Curriculum Vitae. When I come back after my year Au pairing, I would love to do some work with special needs children, be it volunteer work or a Special needs assistant in a school. So hopefully in five years, I will have that job as a S.N.A. If I don’t find a job to work with special needs I would gladly go and find work in a Montessori. From there on in roughly ten years I would love to have my own Montessori open and running and also be doing some volunteer work when I have the time.

Challenges to achieving goals.

Of course I would love to reach and achieve my goals but with these goals also comes a lot of challenges. For me to be able to move onto third level education in September, a lot of time and study has to go into my assignments and my exams. Trying to achieve distinctions in all modules will be the most challenging. With hard work and dedication I feel I will be able to achieve these goals. Time is a huge challenging factor in achieving some of these goals. As I’ve so much to do and very little time to get it all done. Before I complete this course I hope to have also completed a first aid course, but this will also be difficult as I will have many assignments to do along with study for exams. I will have to have all my assignments handed up on time but also put a lot of effort into them to try and achieve my distinctions.

As I want to do a lot of volunteer work, time is also a challenge, as I have a lot of study to do and hopefully a job to be committed to, I really would love to do some volunteer work but again I’ll have to wait and see how I am doing with college and work. Money is also an issue with achieving these goals, as you know college is very expensive and I will be a full time student so it will be quite difficult to fund myself sufficiently. I will have to work twice as hard with every opportunity I get to earn money.

I will have to look for a good job with good pay which is quite challenging and also be able to balance college and work will be difficult. For my long term goals, there definitely will be challenges I will meet along the way. A huge challenge will be money. If I want to do some extra course that I may not plan on doing now, it could add up to a lot of money, especially when my dream is to open and run my own Montessori. Even though this is a long term goal and is many years away, I will probably have to start saving for a rainy day which will hopefully end up going towards opening my own Montessori.

Education and training needs.

For me to become a fully Montessori teacher I need a level 7 qualification. This qualification will allow me to open up my own Montessori. With a level 6 degree it will only allow me to work in the Montessori and be a room leader. Education is essential for wanting to work in a Montessori or any childcare facility for that matter and also to be able to open and run your own care setting. A qualification is your number one priority you need for working in a childcare facility. Also Garda vetting is essential. Without your Garda vetting being cleared there will be no chance you will be allowed work in a childcare setting.

There must be a staff member on the premises at all times who is qualified in first aid. So it is vital that when wanting to work in a childcare setting that you are somehow qualified in first aid and that you do a refreshers course every two years. In a lot of childcare settings there is a kitchen for cooking and preparing hot food for the children that are there for long days, so for working in a childcare setting it’s essential to have a H.A.C.C.P (hazard analysis critical control point) course done. This course makes you more aware of food hygiene in the setting and helps you prevent cross contamination and food disease in the childcare setting.

Flood, E., 2013, child development, FETAC levels 5&6, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/education/pre_school_education_and_childcare/health_safety_and_welfare_of_preschool_childcare_services.html 1st February 2015.

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