Children’s Minister James Reilly has today announced funding of €1.5 million for the ‘Learner Fund 4’ to assist practitioners in Early Childhood Care and Education to upgrade their qualifications.
Children benefit most from pre-school when provision is high quality, and staff qualifications are a good indicator of quality. Today’s announcement builds on a range of initiatives to support better quality in the pre-school sector. To date more than 3,000 staff have been supported through previous Learner Funds to raise their qualification level in Early Childhood Care and Education.
‘I’m delighted to announce Learner Fund 4. We know that all children benefit from early investment, but the greatest benefits result when quality is high. More than 3,000 early years practitioners have already benefited from previous Learner Funds. The Learner Fund 4 is evidence of this Government’s continued commitment to supporting the early years sector to build the high quality pre-school sector we all want.’
Today’s announcement marks the first of a series of measures designed to support the expansion of free pre-school provided under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme announced in Budget 2016, which will increase the number of children benefiting from free pre-school from about 67,000 currently, to around 127,000 in a given programme year. The expansion of free pre-school applies from September 2016, when the minimum qualification requirement for ‘ECCE Room Leaders’ will be a Level 6 Award on the National Qualifications Framework.
‘I’m committed to working with the early years sector to ensure that every child can benefit from free pre-school from the age of 3 until they start primary school from September 2016.
While there is already additional capacity in the sector, I am clear that more capacity will be required. Officials at my Department are working closely with the City and County Childcare Committees on a range of measures to support the sector to expand capacity, while enhancing the quality of provision under the Early Years Quality Agenda.
€3.5 million has already been committed to this since 2014 through previous Learner Funds. Today’s announcement of funding for Learner Fund 4 will increase this investment to €5 million.
The Learner Fund 4 is the first in a series of measures that will be introduced over the coming months to support the early years sector’.
Learner Fund 4 is opening for applications on Monday 25th January at 2pm, and will remain open until 10th March 2016. Pre-school providers must submit an online application, on behalf of their staff member.
To access the information, log into your PIP page and click on Announcements under PIP information.
Te register for a learner fund account you will need to request a user name and password using your PIP email address. A username and password will be sent to you within a few days and then you can apply for the Learner Fund.
Learner Fund 4 will assist staff members to secure the necessary qualifications for the position as ‘ECCE Room Leader’ (i.e. Level 6 Award on the National Qualifications Framework). To be eligible, the staff member must be currently working directly with children in a registered Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme setting and meet the criteria for the Learner Fund 4, which will be set out in the application process.
Please note: A maximum of one staff member per ECCE service will be eligible to receive funding under Learner Fund 4.
The deadline for completion of minimum qualifications has been extended to 31st December 2016.
If you require any assistance with your application, a member of the WCCC team would be delighted to assist.