Fianna Fáil has today published proposals to reform childcare and education in early childhood, focussing on raising quality standards, improving inspections and making childcare more accessible and affordable for parents.

Publishing the document, Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy commented: “Many parents this week are dealing with the transition of their children moving from pre-school into the full classroom setting and all of the challenges that come with that change.  In that context we are publishing a detailed document looking at the early years.  We know from extensive research of the sector that this is an extremely important time in the development of children.

“Effective early childhood care and education has a significant role to play in reducing educational underachievement, particularly for children who are faced with barriers to learning.  Ultimately, the right investment in the early years saves money in the long-run.

“Among the proposals we have looked at is increasing capitation which would allow providers to incentivise staff to seek further training and qualification.  We are proposing to expand and increase inspection and registration and gradually roll out a €15m Professional Early Childhood Training Fund.  The document also proposes a second full free pre-school year for all children with special educational needs.”

Deputy Troy added: “One of the main issues that families continue to face is the cost of childcare and the need for greater support for parents.  We have proposed that the Government undertake an analysis of costs in the sector with a specific remit of identifying relief proposals.  We also want transferable paid parental leave made available immediately and proposing a gradual extension of paid maternity leave, growing to 52 weeks by 2019.

“Over the decade 2000 to 2010, €425 million was invested in capital funding for childcare, and two specific programmes created 65,000 childcare places across the country.  The positive benefits of having physical infrastructure in place enabled the roll out of the free-school year and this progress needs to be built on in the years ahead.

“While I accept that not all of the recommendations in this discussion document are likely to be taken on by Government, I would ask the Government parties to accept this discussion paper in the spirit it is being presented – a genuine attempt to promote an informed conversation between parents, stakeholders and policy-makers as we strive to ensure all children get the best start in life to enable them to reach their full potential.”

You can access the full document here and a summary of some of the proposals under five key headings are listed below. 

Investing in Tomorrow

 

Raising Quality Standards

  • Move responsibility for Early Childhood Care and Education to one Government Department
  • Incrementally increase GDP ratio in relation to investment in ECCE
  • A revised inspection system including a registration process expansion of HIQA role

Supporting and Professionalising workforce

  • Develop Professional Early Childhood Training Fund (€15m 2014-2017) using needs-led targets
  • Increased capitation to allow for better remuneration of staff who train to graduate level

Inclusion of Children with Special Educational Needs

  • A National Inclusion Policy for the early childhood care and education sector
  • Move to mainstream SEN Assistants being directly employed by HSE
  • Provision for second free pre-school year for all children with special educational needs

Childcare for working parents

  • Government commissioned study on cost of childcare, examining relief proposals
  • Extension of statutory maternity leave to one year by 2019
  • Transferable paid paternal leave for parents

Tackling Obesity

  • Develop National Obesity Prevention and Treatment strategy
  • Establishment mandatory requirement of outdoor play spaces for new early childhood services