Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, today launched a ‘Learner Fund’ totalling €3 million over two years to support staff in early years services who need to up-skill to meet new qualification requirements.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Increasing staff qualification requirements is a key objective of my 8 point agenda to improve quality standards in early years and childcare services. International evidence tells us that raising the qualification levels of staff working with children is key to improving the quality of services.”
The Minister added: “I am pleased to have secured funding of €3 million over 2 years, and I know that it will benefit many childcare workers and will help us to build quality services and improve the outcomes for children.”
The ‘Learner Fund’, which will be administered by Pobal with the help of local City and County Childcare Committees, will provide funding for a two-year period specifically to assist existing childcare staff working directly with children in registered early years services to meet new qualification requirements.
The fund will be used to subsidise the cost for eligible learners to undertake accredited Level 5 and Level 6 Fetac courses provided by certain approved training providers. Training courses subsidised under this fund are expected to commence in September 2014.
As part of the pre-school quality agenda, the Minister last year announced that by September 2015 all staff working with children in early years services would have to have a minimum Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework qualification in early years care and education, or an equivalent qualification.
In addition, by September 2015, Preschool Leaders delivering the free Pre-School Year programme will have to have a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent.
The Minister said that “the fund I am launching today will help support staff who will have to meet those requirements.”
Individual applicants can submit an online application for a subsidised training course under the ‘Learner Fund’. To be eligible, they must be currently working directly with children in a registered early years service and meet the criteria for the ‘Learner Fund’ which will be set out in the application process.