Calls for new ECEC quality agency in Ireland intensify as Budget 2020 approaches
Ahead of the upcoming Irish Budget to be released on 8 October 2019, calls for the establishment of a dedicated oversight and quality assurance statutory body to oversee the early years and school age childcare sector- similar to Australia’s ACECQA – have intensified.
The calls are being made by Ireland’s largest advocacy group, Early Childhood Ireland, in light of concerns about Ireland’s existing inspection and oversight system being fragmented and not fit for purpose to guarantee the best outcomes for children or provide sufficient support for operators.
“While the vast majority of services are providing high-quality care in a nurturing environment, the current fragmented inspection and oversight system allows problems to slip through the cracks. We want this to change,” Early Childhood Ireland said in a statement on its website.
The current Irish system is made up of an array of different national and local bodies with responsibilities to ensure quality delivery, inspections and financial compliance. It includes over 30 regional childcare committees, and government initiatives and bodies such as Better Start, the Departments of Education and Skills, child and family agency Tusla, and social inclusion agency Pobal, which ispart of the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Early Childhood Ireland is proposing that one single ECEC agency is created within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that combines a consolidated inspection framework with quality assurance and financial compliance oversight that would have sole responsibility for inspections and quality assurance for early years settings, school-aged childcare settings, and those providing home-based care.
The agency would align and co-ordinate all functions relating to quality, curriculum, planning, administration, funding and capital investment in the early years sector.
It would also act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for all information for parents and providers; providing real-time updated inspection reports and information on Ireland’s National Childcare Scheme, ECCE.
A rapid intervention team would also form part of the agency’s work and allow for immediate remedial action to be taken.
Ireland launched its Sîolta, National Quality Framework in 2006 to support practitioners and educators to provide consistent, high-quality services to children; and, an Aistear, Early Childhood Curriculum Framework to help the creation of learning experiences, however it is yet to create an oversight body similar to Australia’s ACECQA.
For more information on the ECI’s proposal please click here.