In 2014, Tusla, The Child and Family Agency commissioned a Report on the Quality of Pre-school Services (Hanafin, 2014). The report indicated that most pre-schools services are compliant, most of the time, with three quarters of all regulatory requirements inspected as compliant with the Pre-School Regulations (2006).
However, the analysis of inspection reports clearly identified where improvements must be made. Significant levels of ‘non-compliance ‘were identified in relation to a number of thematic areas within the existing regulations; Governance (Regulations 8, 9, 14 & 16), Welfare (Regulation 5) and Safety (Regulations 6, 27, 28 & 30).
All pre-school services in Ireland are required to strive for full compliance across all Pre-School Regulations however it is accepted that at present there are areas that require greater focus and attention. Resulting from this, the Child and Family Agency has introduced a revised model of Pre-School Inspection. Commencing on 26th January 2015, the primary scope of pre-school inspection will be the areas identified as requiring improvement; Governance, Welfare and Safety.
The inspection protocol and process remains unchanged however, pre-school services can anticipate a concentration of focus on the aforementioned Pre-School Regulations (2006). The revised Inspection Tool and documentation can be downloaded here and all pre-school services are encouraged to review this documentation and evaluate their performance within these thematic areas. Please note, the full Pre-School Inspection format and the follow up (review) Inspection format remains in place as required and appropriate.
Initially, pre-school services that have not been inspected in three or more years will be prioritised for inspection.
As part of an on-going programme of reform and development, the Inspectorate will become a National Early Years Inspectorate on January 27th 2015.
Working within Tusla’s Quality Assurance Directorate, the National Manager (Fiona McDonnell) will lead four Inspection and Registration Managers who will manage inspection teams. The inspection teams are divided into four areas, each with an Inspection and Registration Manager. Recruitment of additional Pre-School Inspectors across each region is currently underway.
Three of the four Inspection & Registration Managers have now been appointed as follows:
|Inspection and Registration Managers||Region|
|Colette McGlynn||Dublin Mid Leinster|
|Grainne McKenna||Dublin North East|
|Appointment currently delayed*||South|
*Management of the South currently under interim management by the National Office
Contact details for the Inspection and Registration Manager in your area will be issued in due course.
As you may be aware, under Section 92, Child and Family Agency Act 2013, the new Child and Family Agency is required to provide for a system of registration of Early Years Services. This means that all new Early Years services will have to register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and undergo an inspection before commencing operation. Existing services will be deemed registered on an interim basis but will be required to apply for registration and undergo an inspection in due course.
The model of registration is in its final stages of design and will replace Section 10, Child Care Pre-School Regulations 2006 which simply required service providers to notify the relevant authority of their intention to commence operations.
At present Tusla is awaiting publication of the Pre-School Regulations and National Standards for Early Years services. Once these are published the Early Years Inspectorate will begin planning for the commencement of a registration model of inspection.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs have indicated that there will be a lead in period following publication of Regulations and Standards prior to their implementation. The Early Years Inspectorate welcomes such a period of lead in order to ensure that thorough consultation and planning may be undertaken. The Inspectorate will be seeking opportunities for consultation with key stake-holders and representative bodies in due course.
As pre-school services are aware, the primary responsibility of The Child and Family Agency is the inspection of pre-schools, play groups, nurseries, crèches, day-care and similar services which cater for children aged 0-6, under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006.
As such, the Advisory Service previously offered by the Inspection Teams in some regions has been suspended at this time. Useful information and documentation that will support services with compliance and information on the Inspection Tool is available on the Early Years (Pre-School) Inspectorate webpage.
In addition, City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs) and Voluntary Childcare Organisations (VCOs) work together locally and nationally to assist over 4,600 early years providers to improve the quality of their services. The CCCs and VCOs offer supports and training to early years services that actively promote the adoption and application of national frameworks that improve the quality of service delivery. Details of your local Childcare Committee and/or relevant Voluntary Organisations can be found on the Pobal website (www.pobal.ie)
To read more updates on changes to the Early Years Inspection click here and to view the presentation on inspections presented recently by the Wicklow County Childcare Coordinator at the Childcare Professionals Day in November 2014 click here.