QUESTIONS to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly, TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 16/12/2014
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on the increasing regulation and inspection regime applicable to providers of early childhood care and education services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide details of the inspection regime for providers of early childhood care and education services; if he will outline any proposed changes to this inspection regime; the model upon which such changes have been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 16th December, 2014.
The Government is progressing the Early Years Quality Agenda which represents a programme of measures to support, monitor and regulate the improvement of quality standards in pre-school services in Ireland. A key element of the Agenda is to strengthen the national pre-school inspection system. This will result in a change of practice in a number of areas relating to pre-school inspections.
A number of changes have been made to the Child Care Act 1991 to underpin these reforms. The amended legislation strengthens the current inspection regime and provides a statutory basis for the registration of early years services. The new registration system, which was introduced by the Child and Family Agency on foot of the Child and Family Agency Act, requires that anyone seeking to open an early years service will be required to register with the Agency prior to the facility being opened. The proposed facility will then be inspected to ensure that it meets all the necessary criteria before registration is granted. A similar inspection will be carried out at three year intervals thereafter to ensure continued compliance.
The second and separate phase of inspection, which will monitor the child care-related criteria, will be carried out after the service has become operational and children are attending.
In addition to the above inspections, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills has been asked to lead and organise focused inspections of the quality of education provision in the 4,200 early childhood education settings participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. Early childhood education is a crucial period in the development of young children and a key focus for Government is to promote best outcomes for children participating in the free pre-school programme. These inspections therefore will have a developmental focus looking in particular at the quality of children’s learning experiences.
To support the childcare sector in improving quality, the National Early Years Quality Support Service – Better Start- is being introduced as part of the Early Years Quality Agenda. The Better Start programme is a national approach to quality improvement supports. One element of this, the Early Years Specialist Service, is employing 30 graduates in early childhood care and education who will work directly with services to improve quality, including assisting services in the implementation of the Síolta Framework and the Aistear Curriculum.
It is consideedr that these initiatives, together with the reforms being implemented under the Early Years Quality Agenda, will provide for a more robust and consistent inspection regime that will address the future needs of the childcare sector.