The Minister in conjunction with the HSE and other stakeholders, is progressing a Pre-School Quality Agenda involving a range of actions in eight key areas, aimed at improving quality within early years services and enhancing the regulatory regime. The draft legislation approved today progressed part of that agenda
This legislation will provide a statutory basis for registration of pre-school services and will introduce a range of new enforcement powers for Inspectors at pre-prosecution level. Under the proposed new system, all pre-school services will have to be registered in order to operate. Inspectors will be empowered to specify improvement conditions that a service must comply with; and the threat of removal of registration will be available.
The draft legislation also gives the Minister the power to set qualification levels for the first time for the early years sector. As international evidence shows that increased qualifications lead to an increase in quality this is key to building quality in the sector. The Minister has already announced that from 1 September 2014 for new services and from September 2015 for existing services, all staff must have a level 5 qualification in early childhood care and education, and team leaders will have to have a Level 6 qualification.
Finally, the legislation will for the first time allow school age childcare to be regulated. This is a growing area of provision, and it is essential that it is brought within the regulatory framework.
The Minister plans to bring the draft amendments before the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children this week.
914 pre-school inspection reports have been published on the Pobal website since July.