Over the last decade there have been many changes in settings and children’s services in Ireland. Central to these changes there has been a major emphasis put on the impotance of early years care and education and improving the affordability and acessability of childcare and enhancing quality in early years settings in Ireland. In the past the whole area of childcare was neglected and research repeatly found inequalities of provision for children in early years settings. Which in turn lead to government stating that there needed to be more highly quailifed staff in early years settings, to raise the standard of care for young children, thus the ECCE sector related degree courses were created. The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education Project (Sylva et al, 2004) found children achieved better outcomes in settings led by higher qualified staff.
Throughout this letter I am going to look at many issues that the minister needs to address within the early years sector so that we can get Irelands childcare sector up to the highest standard possible in order to give our children the best possible start in life. One of the issues that will make developing the early years sector more critical is the latest statistics which indicate that our early years population has increased by 18% since 2006. This is an immensely valuable resource offering a uniquely valuable potential for Irelands future but it will of course also present challenges in planning the best way forward to ensure a successful future for our children.
Spending on the early year’s sector should be at the top of the governments agenda it must be an ‘economic imperative’. as there is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that investment in the early years sector is highly important so we need to start working from the bottom up, as it is in the very early years of a child’s life that the foundations for all future learning are built. It is at this stage where young children are developing their cognitive, linguistic, social and motor skills which are all the skills needed for all future learning to take place. Another important factor to remember is that we now know through proven research into how the brain works and it is clear that there is rapid brain development in the early stages of a child’s life thus it is imperative to have high highly trained staff, who are well educated and trained in the developments of neurosciences and who recognise the importance of secure attachment and understand how interactions with young children affects the multiple neuro pathways that affect all aspects of their holistic development so that young children can reach their full potential. This should provide the government with the unquestionable rational for investing in the early years.
Another good reason for government to invest in the early years is because research also suggests that children who have participated in high quality early years programs, made more successful transitions to primary school. It was also found that these children also outperformed their peers in later school, were more competent socially and emotionally, and showed higher verbal and intellectual development during childhood than children who had not been enrolled in high quality settings.
Governments need to spend at least raise their spending from 0.5-1.5 of their total GDP spending on early childhood.
When we look at the analyses by Columbia University in the US which has found medium-term cost-savings to the state of New York from investment in early care and education ranging from over...