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1 READY TO LEARN White Paper on Eary Chidhood Education Pn a6.35

2 Government of Ireand 1999 ISBN X Designed by Metaphor Printed by Cahi Printers Ltd. Dubin Pubished by The Stationery Office To be purchased directy from the Government Pubications Saes Office Sun Aiance House Moesworth Street Dubin 2 or by mai order from Government Pubications Posta Trade Section 4-5 Harcourt Road Dubin 2 (Te: ; Fax: ) or through any bookseer

3 CONTENTS 1 Context What is Eary Chidhood Education? Poicy Debate on Chidcare in Ireand Why a White Paper? Why do we need Eary Chidhood Education? Objective Outine of the Remainder of the White Paper 16 2 Existing Provision Department of Education and Science Eary Chidhood Programmes of other Departments Non-Governmenta Provision Anaysis of the existing Irish System Provision for Eary Chidhood Education in seected Countries Internationa Trends 36 3 Guiding Principes The Core Objective Strategy to achieve the Objective Quaity Buiding on existing Provision and Structures Maximising Effective Impementation The Disadvantaged and Chidren with Specia Needs Criteria for Provision 46 4 Issues of Quaity Definition of Quaity The Quaity in Education (QE) Mark Curricuum and Methodoogy Quaifications and Training Inputs Research, Deveopment and Dissemination 61 5 Intervention Mode Overview Framework for Provision 65

4 5.3 Buiding on Existing State-funded Provision Direct State Intervention Faciitating Quaity Eary Education for a Chidren aged 3 to 4 cared for in the Home Chidren under 3 Years Research Strand Impementation 70 6 Eary Chidhood Education in Primary Schoos Existing Provision Curricuum and Methodoogy Quaifications and Training Inputs 77 7 Chidren with Specia Needs Definition of Chidren with Specia Educationa Needs Rationae for Eary Education for Chidren with Specia Needs Identification and Assessment Existing Provision for Chidren aged 4 to 5 Years with Specia Needs in the Schoo System Provision for Chidren with Specia Needs under 4 Years of Age Deveoping a Poicy for Eary Specia Needs Education Eements of an Eary Intervention for Chidren with Specia Needs Structura Matters 92 8 Chidren who are Disadvantaged Definition Importance of Eary Chidhood Education Existing Provision for Disadvantaged Young Chidren Schoo-based Interventions Provision for Chidren Aged 3-4 Outside Primary Schoo Chidren under Traveer Chidren Research and Deveopment Other Matters The Centra Roe of Parents Why shoud Parents be invoved in Eary Chidhood Education? 111

5 9.2 Factors which inhibit Parenta Invovement Strategies to enhance Parenta Invovement Inspection and Evauation Inspection Evauation Structures Structura Chaenges Meeting the Chaenge Roe of the Department of Education and Science The Eary Chidhood Education Agency (ECEA) Coordination Structures Impementation Next Steps 135

6 FOREWORD Micheá Martin, TD. Minister for Education and Science. High-quaity eary education can make the crucia difference in heping each chid deveop to their fu potentia. In recognition of this, the Government incuded a cear commitment to eary chidhood education in its Action Programme for the Miennium. Quaity of provision is the key theme of the White Paper. Its aim is to support the deveopment and educationa achievement of chidren through high quaity eary education, with a particuar focus on the disadvantaged and chidren with specia needs. The Paper sets out a comprehensive strategy to raise and maintain standards in respect of professiona competencies, curricuum and methodoogies. It seeks to support providers by providing expert advice and support, access to the very atest research findings on chidren s deveopment and education and a range of tangibe supports such as curricuum guideines and subsidies to promote avaiabiity of suitabe premises in our primary schoos for eary chidhood education providers. The White Paper focuses on chidren from birth to six years. It covers the whoe spectrum of educationa needs: the deveopment of very young chidren in the home, supports to parents concerning how best to hep their chidren to earn, a wide range of supports for private providers and vountary/community groups and a strategy to enhance the quaity of infant education in primary schoos. The vita roe of parents in their chidren s education is recognised and as a fundamenta principe, the State seeks to support and strengthen, but not to suppant this roe. Specific additiona measures are aso set out in respect of the priority target groups the disadvantaged and chidren with specia needs. In formuating and deveoping the proposas, particuar attention was paid to the need to buid on existing provision. We must take what is best in existing provision, both nationay and internationay, and incorporate it into our eary chidhood education system. The Paper recognises the need for coordination of the range of State services for young chidren and acknowedges that consutation wi be crucia to ensure a consistent and effective approach. Impementation of the White Paper proposas wi ensure that quaity becomes and remains the hamark of eary chidhood education. Its pubication marks a miestone in this regard, but does not represent the end of the process. Change cannot occur overnight and a panned, phased approach wi be necessary. Progress wi be achieved

7 in consutation and partnership with a the interests invoved and channes for this partnership approach are outined in the Paper. An intensive process of consutation, the Nationa Forum for Eary Chidhood Education, preceded the deveopment of the White Paper. The White Paper has been informed by the Report on the Forum and by extensive research.

8 1 CONTEXT This chapter outines the context within which the White Paper has deveoped. It summarises the recent poicy debate on chidcare in Ireand and sets out the rationae for the White Paper and for an increased focus on eary chidhood education. 1.1 What is Eary Chidhood Education? The purpose of this White Paper is to set out Government poicy on a issues reating to eary chidhood education. An essentia starting point is to define what we mean by eary chidhood education. The Department of Education and Science s mission is to support the deveopment of a high quaity education system which wi enabe individuas to deveop to their fu potentia as persons and to participate fuy as citizens in Ireand s socia and economic deveopment. For many years, it was considered that education began when chidren went to schoo and ended when students eft the forma education system at the end of first,

9 second or third eve. There is growing recognition of the importance of ifeong earning and the idea that chidren earn from the eariest moment and continue to earn throughout their ives. Education is concerned with a the phases of ife, incuding the very eary chidhood phase. At the same time we must recognise that young chidren have needs for both education and care and that the focus can never be excusivey on either. For very young chidren, their education and care needs are cosey intertwined, and must be met in a unified way. The Report of the Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Chidcare acknowedges this, noting that Care and education are inextricaby inked eements in a chid s hoistic deveopment this reaity must be refected in the ethos and programme of a services. 1 Depending on chidren s eve of deveopment and circumstances, their care and education needs may be met in a variety of ways. In certain situations, for exampe in the home, education and care may be provided simutaneousy in a seamess fashion, with chidren exposed to a variety of stimui and experiences which enhance their deveopment, knowedge, disposition and readiness to earn. The nature of provision in externa settings wi vary across a spectrum from a primariy care-orientated environment to the provision of a substantia component of eary chidhood education. The ocation of a provider on this spectrum wi depend on the aims, objectives and duration of provision, the deveopmenta ages of the chidren invoved and the skis and competences of staff. Eary chidhood services provided to chidren wi usuay encompass both care and education, with the distinction between the two increasingy burred as the age of the chidren decreases. Forma education, generay speaking, tends to become more important for oder chidren. This White Paper sets out Government poicy on education for young chidren. It is concerned chiefy with the formuation of poicy concerning the education component of eary education services, whatever the context, whie, at the same time, taking account of the care needs of chidren when panning education provision in a variety of contexts. Keaghan issues a warning on this issue: First of a, there is the need to consider the baance between educationa and chid-care provision. It is perhaps unfortunate that chid-care and educationa programmes have grown independenty of each other and that communication between the two traditions has been rather imited since, viewed from the chid s point of view, it is unikey that either type of programme on its own can fuy meet the needs of the chid. 2 Accordingy, whie the focus of the White Paper is on education, one of its key underying principes is that, for young chidren, education and care shoud not be separated, but shoud be provided in a compementary, seamess fashion.

10 It is aso necessary to define the age group covered by eary chidhood education. Athough the choice of any age group may, to an extent, be seen as arbitrary, some parameter must be set to carify the scope of this Paper. In ine with nationa and internationa thinking, therefore, eary chidhood wi be taken to mean chidren who have not yet reached their sixth birthday. 3 Six years of age aso corresponds to the statutory schoo starting age as set out in the Education (Wefare) Bi, Athough the age range is very short, internationa research and practice, as we as practica considerations, suggest that different poicies appy to chidren under the age of 3 years and chidren aged between 3 and 6 years. Care is the dominant requirement of chidren aged ess than 3 years and, because education is a more significant need of oder chidren, the principa, though not excusive, poicy focus of this White Paper is on chidren aged between 3 and 6 years. More than haf of 4 year ods and amost a 5 year ods benefit from an estabished system of eary chidhood education provided by State-funded primary schoos. The White Paper focuses (in particuar in chapter 6) on improving the quaity of such provision. However, most of the poicy initiatives set out in the Paper wi seek to deveop and raise standards in the pre-schoo sector. In particuar, proposas wi focus on meeting the deveopmenta needs of chidren aged 3 to 4. Neither sector, though, can be treated in isoation and the need for greater continuity and inks between the pre-schoo and primary schoo systems wi aso be addressed. Eary chidhood education is very important for chidren aged 3 and under, given the ongstanding research evidence that the pace of deveopment is most rapid in the eariest years. However, The rationae for eary chidhood education for chidren under 2 years of age is not as we estabished as that for 3-, 4-, 5-year od chidren. 5 This difference in need wi be refected in the differing nature of the interventions and supports recommended for this age group. 1.2 Poicy Debate on Chidcare in Ireand The inextricabe inkage between education and care means that eary education comprises just one eement in an a-encompassing poicy concerning the rights and needs of young chidren. A number of factors has combined to bring eary chidhood issues to the top of the poicy agenda in recent years. Firsty, there is growing recognition of the benefits for a chidren of good quaity eary chidhood education. Secondy, the importance of eary education in addressing socio-economic disadvantage and the contribution of education to economic deveopment have given

11 rise to demands for improved eary education for a chidren. Thirdy, the needs of empoyers for increased numbers of workers, as we as increased participation in the abour force, have simutaneousy increased the demand for and reduced the suppy of chidcare paces. As a resut of the increased focus on eary chidhood issues, these issues have been considered in a number of fora. One of these was the Nationa Forum for Eary Chidhood Education, a week-ong consutation process which took pace as part of the process of preparing this White Paper. The aim of the Forum was to provide an opportunity for a interested groups to engage in a fu exchange of views, to put forward their own particuar concerns and objectives whie, at the same time, taking account of the objectives and concerns of the other partners in the process. 6 Other recent studies deaing with eary chidhood issues were the report of the Commission on the Famiy 7 and the Report of the Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Chidcare. The deveopment of eary years poicy wi continue with the preparation of a coordinated nationa chidren s strategy, work on which has recenty commenced. The concusions and recommendations of the various groups which have reported to date are considered as part of chapter 2 and inform this White Paper as a whoe. Whie the Paper wi focus on the education aspects of care and education for chidren under 6 years, the poicy proposas made herein wi obviousy feed into the wider debate and poicy formuation process. In particuar, in ine with the discussion in the previous section about the importance of a seamess provision of education and care, the White Paper wi set out the poicy for eary education in the context of an integrated provision of eary education and care. It shoud, however, be emphasised that eary education is important in its own right. As wi be outined ater in this chapter, experience of eary chidhood education is a key factor in a chid s capacity to earn and in determining a chid s ife chances. In this connection, it has been noted: Educationa research stresses the importance of the preschoo period for a chid s ater educationa deveopment and performance. This suggests that a poicy of extending pre-primary provision, especiay to chidren from disadvantaged backgrounds, woud probaby yied high private and socia returns. However, it woud be important to emphasise education in any such strategy as opposed to one of simpy extending chidcare Why a White Paper? The Government is committed to deveoping a nationa poicy framework for eary chidhood education and the Programme for Government incudes a specific commitment to The provision of a specific budget for pre-schoo education. 9 The

12 pubication of this White Paper is a core part of the fufiment of this commitment and seeks to point the way forward for the future deveopment of the sector. Addressing the Nationa Forum on Eary Chidhood Education, the Minister noted that it is cear that over the years the pubic poicy response to this has been inadequate and piecemea. Recognition of this was centra to the Government s decision to pace this issue on the poitica agenda. 10 This White Paper seeks to address this deficiency by deveoping an overarching poicy framework which wi buid on existing provision and improve the extent and quaity of service provided. The State s roe in this regard is centra. In most countries, the provision of services for chidren under 3 years and providing care and recreation for schoo-age chidren depend on oca authorities and private organisations. What these high growth deveopments mosty have in common has been the roe payed by nationa governments or egisatures in stimuating growth. 11 Apart from primary schoo provision for infants, the Department of Education and Science s invovement to date in eary chidhood education, has focussed principay on piot interventions for chidren who are disadvantaged or have specia needs. Traditionay the focus in education has been on schoos and third eve institutions, but in recent years there has been a shift in emphasis towards a continuum of ifeong earning. In ine with this, the education system is being broadened at a number of eves; for exampe, adut earners are becoming more and more part of the mainstream education system. The need to broaden the coverage of the education system at the ower age range was highighted in the Background Paper to the Nationa Forum for Eary Chidhood Education. The concentration of poicy in deveoped countries, over a sequence of past generations has meant that the age range of 6 to 22 has been the predominant beneficiary of investment in educationa provision. As society pans for a new future, this is no onger regarded as an adequate or satisfactory response in the ight of greaty changed socia conditions. As we as deveopments in adut and community education, much new thinking has been taking pace regarding eary chidhood education which emphasises its vita importance, in contemporary circumstances, for individuas, famiies and society. 12 Accordingy, just as adut education poicy wi shorty be set out in its own White Paper, this White Paper sets out Government poicy for eary chidhood education. 1.4 Why do we need Eary Chidhood Education? This section assesses the vaue of eary education under a number of headings, incuding its importance in preparing chidren for the chaenges of forma primary education, onger-term returns to the individua in terms of ife chances and earning

13 power, and the broader returns to society which fow from investment in the area. It aso highights the crucia importance of quaity of provision. Enhancing Disposition and Readiness to Learn Most chidren enter the primary schoo system we-equipped to earn and to cope with the transition to forma education. However, for various reasons, some chidren have probems coping with this transition. Such chidren do not have a soid foundation upon which to accumuate knowedge and buid their education. Without this initia foundation, the gap between these chidren and their peers tends to widen over time, and this creates the need for subsequent intervention to narrow the gap. This intervention is consideraby ess costeffective than preventive action prior to entry to the education system: Prevention of educationa faiure and socia excusion beginning at the pre-primary eve is ess expensive and more effective in soving a wide range of socia probems than treatment after probems have emerged. 13 Studies have shown that quaity eary education can have a significant impact on chidren s capacity to cope with the transition to forma schooing and to deveop a capacity to earn. Large-scae studies undertaken in the UK in the eary 1990s showed that, at the age of 7, chidren who had experienced pre-schoo out-performed their peers in severa subject areas. 14 Eary intervention is aso seen as vita in preventing reading difficuties ater in ife: Research provides ampe evidence of the importance of cutivating cognitive, anguage and socia deveopment during chidren s eary years it (is) critica that the preschoo opportunities be designed in ways that fuy support anguage and iteracy deveopment. 15 In Ireand, significant improvements in attainment at pre-schoo eve were recorded in an evauation of the Rutand Street project. Some studies have indicated that the IQ gain in attainment as a resut of pre-schoo education may be transitory. 16 Research has shown that the attainment differentia was ost foowing the transfer to primary schoo. 17 The use of IQ in assessing the vaue of pre-schoo intervention, however, takes a narrow, short-term view of the educationa benefits for individuas of eary chidhood education. Longer-term improvements in academic achievement have been identified in various studies, with improved retention rates, higher participation in third eve and ower rates of grade repetition recorded among the benefits. Evauation of intervention programmes in the USA showed that academic performance gains were recorded even after the initia IQ differentias had faded. 18 Simiar concusions have been drawn in Ireand in respect of the Rutand Street project. Foow-up evauation has shown that participants stayed onger at schoo and were more ikey to take a pubic examination than were non-participants from the same area. 19

14 An in-depth review of evauations of nine American programmes concudes that Athough the IQ effects produced by eary intervention programs may be short-ived, there appear to be strong and onger-asting benefits in terms of educationa outcomes, such as academic achievement and other aspects of schoo performance the gains in academic success may be stronger the onger the duration of the intervention program. 20 In the same vein, an OECD review of internationa research notes that findings suggest that participants in a quaity ECEC environment are ikey to deveop reasoning and probem-soving skis, to be more co-operative and considerate of others and to deveop greater sef-esteem. Even if their IQ advantage fades, many of these positive effects may inger and contribute to chidren s positive cassroom earning behaviour, motivation and academic achievement. Eary earning experiences may hep ease chidren s transitions through compusory schooing, eading to ong-term schoo success. 21 Returns to the Individua on Investment Limited ong-term foow-up of pre-schoo participants means that findings are ess extensive concerning the impact of eary chidhood education on empoyment patterns and earning power. However, there are indications that participants in quaity pre-schoo education achieve ong-term returns to the individua. Summarising the research iterature, O Faherty notes that the most rigorous studies showed that high-quaity eary education eads to asting cognitive and socia benefits which persist throughout adoescence and aduthood. 22 These benefits incude increased probabiity of competing high schoo and of securing empoyment. Benefits to Parents Parents may benefit from invovement in eary chidhood education through improved sefconfidence and better reationships with their chidren. Opportunities for further education and career deveopment wi aso arise. Socia Returns on Investment Significant benefits to society as a whoe accrue to investment in education. Research has shown that the rate of return is greatest at ower eves of education. 23 Returns may be in the form of increased economic growth: better educated workers yied higher productivity. Indeed, in a review of the Irish situation, the ESRI identified an increase in human capita as one of five medium-to-ong term factors which have made a considerabe contribution to the growth of the economy. 24 Simiary, the OECD noted that the growth in human capita is estimated to have contributed 0.8 percentage points to the average growth rate of Ireand between 1960 and Socia returns may aso accrue in the form of measurabe savings on Government expenditure. In particuar, improved eves of education ead to reductions in costs

15 associated with unempoyment, crime and heathcare. A recent anaysis compared the costs of two American pre-schoo interventions with the savings accruing to the Government. 26 Extensive ong-term evauations of both projects had been carried out, incuding assessments of their impact on juvenie crime rates, heath care and wefare. 27 Cost-savings anaysis showed that both projects generate more than enough savings to offset program costs. Anayses of costs versus savings to Government are more easiy quantifiabe and receive attention because the Government is ikey to be the principa source of funding for the reevant interventions. However, This is not to say that programs for which the measured costs are greater than the measured savings shoud not be funded by the government. Eary chidhood intervention programs might be deemed worthy even if their costs exceed their savings to government, because not a their benefits can be monetized. For this reason, measured net savings to the government shoud not be the soe basis for deciding whether to fund a program or which of a set of competing programs to fund. However, positive net savings shoud hep aay the concerns of those troubed by the potentia budgetary burden of government-funded eary intervention. 28 When wider benefits are added in to the equation, the scaes tip even more in favour of eary intervention. However, the benefits may be widey dispersed and difficut to quantify. For exampe, a reduction in crime rates attributabe to intervention wi ead, not ony to measurabe benefits to the State (custodia, security and administrative savings), but aso to ess pain, suffering and property oss by victims. It is difficut to monetize the benefits of improved behaviour or IQ (we cannot) determine the monetary vaue to society of greater academic achievement (or) for many of the heath benefits reaized. 29 Despite these difficuties, some estimates are possibe. Cost-benefit anaysis of the Perry programme is cited by (among others) the Nationa Forum Report: the ratio benefit-tocost of a we-run eary education programme can be high - in the case of the Perry Preschoo Programme, seven to one in terms of educationa and socia expenditure savings. 30 Benefits are greater for Disadvantaged Chidren Research suggests that the benefits of eary chidhood education are more significant for chidren who are disadvantaged. This issue is discussed in detai in chapter 8. Quaity Matters A eary chidhood services must encompass, not ony chidcare, but aso education. Put simpy, care without education cannot succeed in promoting educationa objectives. Moreover, the benefits of eary chidhood education accrue ony where interventions are of sufficienty high quaity. Researchers consistenty preface findings on the benefits of eary

16 chidhood education with the word quaity, and a forthcoming OECD review of the area notes that studies uniformy show that the quaity of provision has an important impact on chidren s deveopment and that benefits are more marked and ess ikey to fade out in we-designed forms of eary chidhood education and care. 31 Moreover, eary chidhood services, if they are to tacke the probems of educationa disadvantage, must encompass quaity. Simiary, the evauation of the Eary Start piot project (chapter 8) shows that investment of resources aone is not sufficient to guarantee effectiveness. 32 Carefu panning and review is required to ensure that quaity is maintained and rea benefits for participants achieved. The essons earned from the Eary Start piot project have been used to inform the poicy proposas in this White Paper. Intervention Must Be Eary The eary years of ife are centra to a chid s education and deveopment. As far back as 1964, it was noted that 50% of menta deveopment takes pace in the first four years of a chid s ife. 33 In more recent years, significant advances have been made in the fied of brain research and neuroogists have determined that 90% of brain growth occurs by age Research indicates that brain growth resuts from changes in ce size and maturity and from changes to the connections among brain ces. These changes are infuenced by environmenta factors and everyday experiences: The more areas of the brain which are stimuated and used, the more neurona pathways and networks are estabished. 35 The nature of the opportunities and the supports provided for a chid s deveopment during the formative period, and the quaity of the educationa experiences over this period, can have a far-reaching effect on the individua s ong-term deveopment and prospects: Experiences may ater the behaviour of an adut, but experience iteray forms the mind of a young chid. 36 Most chidren wi benefit from a supportive and caring home environment and, during these vita eary years, wi receive sufficient stimuation to foster rapid brain deveopment. However, chidren are aso vunerabe in the eary years: the eary years constitute a period of both opportunity and vunerabiity. 37 Without adequate eves of care and support, without exposure to everyday experiences and stimuation, a chid s deveopment may be damaged: once the critica period (0-4 years) is past, that system of the brain wi never be abe to deveop or function normay. 38 This concern was echoed at the Nationa Forum for Eary Chidhood Education. In the eary years of ife, brain maturation and neuroogica deveopment proceed at a pace never equaed at ater stages of deveopment As chidhood comes but once in a ifetime, these years are irrepaceabe and the opportunities they provide for the satisfactory ife of the chid shoud not be missed. 39

17 It is cear, therefore, that quaity education intervention is vita at a very eary age, particuary for those who are disadvantaged. Supporting Parents The most important educators and carers during a chid s first years are the parents. In recent years, however, parents have increasingy sought to have their chidren cared for and educated outside of the home from a very young age, and this must be acknowedged in Government poicy for the area. The aim of this White Paper is to support parents roe in their chidren s care and education, not to suppant it. This is not merey a egaistic acknowedgement of the parents constitutiona roe as the primary educators of the chid, but a recognition of the fact that parents are best paced to choose the most appropriate form of care and education for their chidren. At a times, the aim wi be to maximise parenta invovement and choice. Chapter 9 sets out the strategy to achieve this aim. This wi incude invoving parents in the consutation and partnership process and in the deveopment of curricua and standards. Support wi be provided for the estabishment of a representative organisation for parents of young chidren. Parents wi aso be incuded on the expert advisory group (chapter 11) and wi be invoved in the decision-making process where the State funds direct provision. In addition, proposas wi seek to improve the quaity of the information avaiabe, to provide curricuum and materias for use by parents, and to support educationa and training courses. Internationa Experience The importance of eary chidhood education is aso iustrated by the growth in provision and support for the service internationay. Ireand s entry into this arena has been comparativey ate, as noted by an EU Commission Network: In most countries, pre-primary schooing or kindergarten provision for chidren aged 3-6 years is aready high, so that there is ess scope (than in the case of the under 3 s) for deveopment. An important exception was the introduction of pre-primary education in Ireand 40 In Ireand s case, of course, participation in forma education at age 4 and 5 compares very we with the rates in other member states. Concusion There is compeing evidence of a wide range of benefits generated by quaity eary intervention programmes. The benefits which high-quaity eary education interventions offer to chidren constitute the principa argument in favour of deveoping the eary chidhood education area, and the poicy as set out in this White Paper wi refect that position. These incude initia gains in IQ, enhanced capacity to earn, onger-term improvements in educationa performance, private returns to individuas (both financia and deveopmenta), economic returns and wider benefits to society. Socia and economic

18 returns are additiona important benefits which the State must, as guardian of the common good, take into account when considering the extent to which it shoud become invoved in the process. However, not a eary chidhood education programmes yied benefits and care is required in designing and impementing an eary education intervention. The programme must be high quaity, focus on achieving a baance between short-term and ong-term gains and take account of the circumstances of chidren who are educationay disadvantaged, incuding chidren with a disabiity. An effective strategy must aso support parents in the home as first educators of a chid. 1.5 Objective The principa objective of Government poicy in regard to eary chidhood education is: to support the deveopment and educationa achievement of chidren through high quaity eary education, with particuar focus on the target groups of the disadvantaged and those with specia needs. The objective wi be achieved through a strategy of faciitating and supporting the provision of quaity eary chidhood education for a chidren. Eary chidhood education shoud be chid-centred, providing chidren with the opportunity to enhance a aspects of their deveopment. In this regard, the White Paper seeks to take account of Artice 29 1(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Chid. The Artice notes that the education of the chid sha be directed to: (a) The deveopment of the chid s personaity, taents and menta and physica abiities to their fuest potentia. Eary chidhood education wi engender in chidren a disposition and state of readiness to earn in both forma and non-forma settings. Disposition to earn invoves the deveopment of socia skis and behaviour patterns in young chidren which wi faciitate their integration into a forma education environment. This wi ensure that chidren wi adjust we to the transition to the primary schoo system and cuture and have the capacity and motivation to master new skis and chaenges. Readiness to earn reates to the fact that chidren who begin schooing with soid foundations in pace wi be better paced to deveop to their potentia. It invoves many aspects incuding heath, socia and emotiona deveopment, anguage use and genera knowedge. It is an essentia part of the idea that, though not necessariy

19 invoving forma education, the eary years represent a vita part of a ife-ong invovement in earning. It is important to stress that the two concepts disposition to earn and readiness to earn are not mutuay excusive and both are vita to the chid. The deveopment of poicy for eary chidhood education, as outined in this White Paper, is underpinned by a number of guiding principes, of which the foowing are particuary important: Quaity must underpin a aspects of eary education provision. The State wi seek to buid on existing provision and to use the existing reguatory framework, where possibe. Impementation wi be undertaken on a gradua, phased basis, to aow a the participants in the system to prepare adequatey for the chaenges which ie ahead. Progress wi be achieved through a process of consutation, diaogue and partnership with parents, providers and interested parties. Consutation and partnership are fundamenta to progress in the education fied. In the eary chidhood education arena, the Nationa Forum has aready provided an opportunity for the various stakehoders and interested parties to exchange views and ideas and to make recommendations as to the deveopment of future poicy. This White Paper draws on the views expressed at the Forum and in the Secretariat s report and on other reports and research in genera. Consutation and partnership wi continue to be centra to the deveopment of the area. 1.6 Outine of the Remainder of the White Paper The intention in this White Paper is to buid on existing provision and chapter 2 outines the wide range of existing providers of eary chidhood education. The chapter evauates the strengths and weaknesses of the present system, assesses provision in other deveoped countries and isoates common trends in eary chidhood education poicy. The focus in chapter 3 is on the objective and broad principes of the White Paper.

20 Quaity of provision is crucia to the attainment of asting benefits. There is itte point in using chidcare as a mechanism for tacking disadvantage if it does not address the educationa and deveopmenta needs of chidren. Chapter 4 gives an overview of some of the factors which affect quaity of provision and deas with the concept of the Quaity in Education (QE) mark. The QE mark wi be awarded to providers of eary education who meet standards set by the Department concerning quaifications, training, earning objectives, methodoogies and curricuum. The proposed mode for State invovement in the eary chidhood education sector is outined in chapters 5 through 8. Chapter 5 sets out the proposed mode for State intervention concerning chidren aged 4 and under who do not attend primary schoo. The main component of State invovement is faciitating provision and promoting quaity. Provision wi be encouraged by offering incentives to schoos, and aso through a broader Government strategy to increase suppy of chidcare paces. Quaity wi be enhanced through a combination of support, encouragement and reguation. The State wi aso be invoved in direct provision for a number of key target groups of chidren. Finay, the chapter wi consider the eary education needs of chidren and parents in the home. An extensive State-funded system of primary education is aready avaiabe for chidren aged 4 to 6 and it is not proposed to put in pace a parae pre-schoo system for this age-group. Instead, chapter 6 outines proposas to improve the quaity of provision for infants casses. Chapter 7 outines proposas concerning eary chidhood education for chidren with specia needs. Chapter 8 considers provision for chidren who are disadvantaged. As aready noted, parents pay a centra roe in their chidren s eary education and proposas to support parenta invovement in eary chidhood education are outined in chapter 9. Inspection wi be vita to hep providers to attain high standards and to ensure that these standards are maintained subsequenty. Evauation wi be required at various eves to determine and improve the effectiveness of State intervention. The mechanisms proposed for inspection and evauation are outined in chapter 10. Finay, chapter 11 considers the structures which wi be required to faciitate effective coordination of provision, reguation and improvements in quaity. The chapter considers how coordination may be faciitated at nationa eve. It aso sets out

21 the roes and responsibiities of the Department of Education and Science and outines a strategy to assign a executive functions in the eary chidhood education area to a new executive agency.

22 2 EXISTING PROVISION This chapter first summarises the main eary education services provided in Ireand and discusses some aspects of the current system. The intention in the first haf of the chapter is to highight and buid on strengths and to identify weaknesses and gaps in the Irish system with a view to ensuring that these are addressed in the new framework. The chapter goes on to consider deveopments in four countries France, New Zeaand, Norway and the United Kingdom and identifies some common internationa trends.

23 2.1 Department of Education and Science The main channe of State support for eary chidhood education is found in the nationa schoo system. Athough a chid is not required by aw to attend schoo unti s/he has reached her/his sixth birthday, virtuay a 5 year ods and more than haf (52%) of 4 year ods attend primary schoos. 1 The participation rate among 4 year od girs is four to five percentage points greater than that for boys. 2 Provision in nationa schoos for chidren aged 4 and 5 is an integra part of the reguar schoo system. The Primary Education Review Body acknowedged this, noting that since chidren are entited to enter schoo in Ireand from the age of four years, much of what is considered pre-schooing in other countries is aready incorporated in the primary schoo system. 3 Chidren in infants casses foow a prescribed curricuum (a revised curricuum is being introduced on a phased basis into schoos starting in September 1999) and are taught by fuy-trained nationa schoo teachers. State provision for younger chidren is significanty ess deveoped. Just over one per cent of 3 year ods were cassified as in fu-time education on 1 January 1998, and the majority (64%) of these were enroed in private (non-state-funded) primary schoos, with the rest spit between ordinary casses and specia schoos or casses. 4 The Department aso operates a range of other programmes which a have particuar focus on eary education: the Eary Start Pre-schoo piot programme, pre-schoo provision for traveers and for chidren with disabiities, and the Breaking the Cyce piot project. However, its first invovement in the pre-schoo area the Rutand Street Project commenced 30 years ago. These programmes are outined in chapters 7 and 8 which dea with specia needs and disadvantage, respectivey. 2.2 Eary Chidhood Programmes of other Departments This section outines briefy the roes of some of the other Government Departments - Heath and Chidren, Justice, Equaity and Law Reform and Socia, Community and Famiy Affairs - in the eary chidhood area. Department of Heath and Chidren Traditionay, the Department s focus was on chidren considered to be at risk. In this connection, it provides grants, via the Heath Boards, to assist with the costs of nurseries and other day care services (many run by vountary groups) catering for such chidren. These services generay invove some eary education provision. The

24 Department s roe was broadened by the Chid Care Act, The Act paces a statutory duty on Heath Boards to secure the wefare of chidren and to promote the deveopment of chidren attending pre-schoo services. 5 In December 1996 the Chid Care (Pre-schoo Services) Reguations were introduced under section 50 of the Act. These reguations require that organisations or persons providing a pre-schoo service to four or more chidren (there are some exceptions) must notify the oca Heath Board of their activities. The reguations set down minimum standards (expained in detai in accompanying guideines) in reation to adequate space and staffing, record keeping, first aid and safety procedures, equipment and materias and insurance which providers must meet. Officias from the Heath Boards carry out inspections to ensure compiance with these standards. Under the existing system, there are no minimum standards prescribed concerning the educationa component of services or the training and quaifications of staff. The Report of the Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Chidcare recommends that the chidcare sector shoud aim to achieve the European Commission Network on Chidcare target of a minimum of 60% of staff working directy with chidren in coective services shoud have training of at east three years which incorporates the theory and practice of pedagogy. 6 The report aso sets out recommended roes for various staff in the chidcare sector. The roe suggested for chidcare worker incudes reference to activities to provide for chidren s physica, emotiona, socia and cognitive deveopment. 7 There is growing support for an increased focus on the deveopmenta and educationa aspects of chidcare. This refects greater awareness generay of the vaue and benefits of eary chidhood education and increasing demands from parents concerning the deveopmenta needs of chidren. However, some concern has been expressed regarding the possibe impact on the suppy of paces of improved standards and quaity, and of greater emphasis on deveopment and eary education. Concerns have aso focussed on the ogistics of an inspection process. Whie recognising that suppy and ogistics are important concerns, we take the view, supported by internationa research, that quaity of provision is critica. However, quaity enhancement need not mean any reduction in the suppy of chidcare: quaity may be enhanced whie quantity is maintained. This issue is addressed ater in this White Paper, particuary in chapter 10, where an approach to a proposed inspection process is outined. Finay, under this heading, it shoud be noted that the Department of Heath and Chidren is responsibe for coordinating the preparation by an inter-departmenta committee of a Nationa Chidren s Strategy.

25 Department of Justice, Equaity and Law Reform The Department of Justice, Equaity and Law Reform pays a centra roe in chidcare poicy, having chaired the expert working group drafting the Partnership 2000 Chidcare Report. The Department aso operates the Equa Opportunities Chidcare Programme. The programme, deivered on behaf of the Department by ADM Limited, 8 aims to faciitate participation by sociay excuded parents in training, education and empoyment, by supporting the deveopment of community chidcare faciities in areas of disadvantage. Assistance is provided for capita costs and, in 1998, support was introduced towards recurrent costs of 25 fagship projects which provide chidcare in disadvantaged areas. The Department supports nationa umbrea bodies invoved in the chidcare area to expand their membership base, encourage chidminders to become invoved in more structured networks, and promote training and standards among members. Department of Socia, Community and Famiy Affairs The Department of Socia, Community and Famiy Affairs operates a number of grant schemes for community and vountary organisations and for women s groups. The Community Deveopment Programme seeks to support communities in tacking oca probems and to foster partnership between parents, providers and the various other interests in the areas concerned. Funding is aso aocated by the Department to Famiy Resource Centres. These centres provide chidcare faciities to enabe parents to attend adut education and support programmes. Other Departments Various other Government Departments are invoved in the eary chidhood area. For exampe, the Department of Agricuture and Food provides funding for the deveopment of rura chidcare. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Empoyment supports a number of eary chidhood programmes, incuding FÁS training and support for initiatives of the County Enterprise Boards. Pre-schooing in Irish has been traditionay funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaetacht and the Isands (Bord na Gaeige/Údarás na Gaetachta). The report of the Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Chidcare ists eeven Departments as invoved in the chidcare area. 2.3 Non-Governmenta Provision A wide variety of pre-schoo services is provided by or in association with vountary and community groups, private business and individuas. The State s roe in existing

26 non-government provision is confined to: an eement of funding (vountary/community groups), inspection concerning basic standards (under the Chid Care Act), and provision of training courses in institutions of further and higher education. Parenta Care The Constitution recognises that the primary and natura educator of the chid is the famiy. Much of a chid s deveopment and education in the eariest years takes pace through norma experiences in the home, athough many parents now choose to have their chidren cared for, from a very eary age, outside of the home. Other parents choose to provide their chidren s pre-schoo care inside the famiy home. Parents have the benefit of unique expertise derived from their intimate knowedge of the chid s deveopment and their awareness of particuar needs, interests and circumstances. The nature and extent of education provided in these cases wi vary according to individua circumstances, backgrounds and subjective priorities. Proposas to invove and support parents are outined in chapter 9. Private Househods (other than the famiy home) Integrated care and education is provided in many cases by chidminders, some of whom are reatives or friends of the chid s parents and others of whom are empoyed by the parents for the purpose. As in the case of parenta care in the home, the nature of care and education provided by chidminders wi depend on individua circumstances and there is no standardised provision. Some efforts are made to encourage minders to benefit from oca networks through the Department of Justice, Equaity and Law Reform s programme of support for nationa organisations invoved in the eary chidhood area. Nursery Schoos, Crèches and Paygroups The objectives of these organisations range across a spectrum from educationa services to provision of substitute chidcare in oco parentis. Many invove a forma schooing component. Parents generay fund the costs privatey, athough some funding may be provided by the State through one of the programmes outined in the previous section, or, in a sma number of cases, a crèche may be provided and at east part-funded by an empoyer. Paygroups tend to emphasise educationa aspects and may be cassified into three broad types: private paygroups, community paygroups and naoínraí. Private paygroups are most ikey to be organised in private househods and parents pay the fu costs; community paygroups tend to be run by committees and the costs to parents are ower. In some cases, costs are subsidised by a Heath Board, vountary organisation, FÁS (assignment of Community Empoyment Scheme trainees) or the

27 State, via Area Deveopment Management. Naoínraí invove pre-schoo education through the medium of Irish. Support for paygroups is provided by nationa umbrea organisations. A providers in this category are obiged, under the terms of the Chid Care (Pre-schoo Services) Reguations, 1996 to notify their oca Heath Board of their activities, and they are subject to the requirements of the reguations concerning staffing and other matters. As noted previousy, the reguations do not set out educationa standards and, accordingy, standards concerning quaifications, training, content and methodoogy of provision wi vary widey across and within each category. Reative Significance of Various Providers A survey carried out for the Commission on the Famiy reveas substantia variation by age group in the prevaence of the various eary chidhood arrangements. 9 Neary two thirds of chidren aged between 2 and 3 are cared for in the home by a parent or reative. The most popuar arrangement for 4 year ods is schoo-based instruction (49%) with nurseries/crèches accounting for one in four cases. Figure 2.1 shows the scae of the change between the two age groups. 10 Fig. 2.1 Comparison of Care Arrangements (1998) 2.4 Anaysis of the existing Irish System There are many positive aspects to the provision of eary chidhood services in Ireand: chidcare workers show high eves of commitment and dedication to the chidren in their charge, many parents become deepy invoved in and support their chidren s education at this eary age and many of the physica faciities, curricua and methodoogies empoyed can be of a very high quaity. This said, the provision of eary chidhood education in Ireand has been described as imited and patchy 11 whie, in a comparison of services in the EU, Ireand is identified as a member state where pubicy-funded services for young chidren are east deveoped. 12 This section considers the principa weaknesses and criticisms of existing eary education in Ireand, with a view to informing the nature of the poicy proposas which wi be made ater in the White Paper. Gaps in Provision Despite the wide range of eary education options avaiabe, it is ikey that there are some gaps in provision in the existing system. The quaity (and cost) of provision is even more ikey to vary. The factors which contribute to this variation incude:

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