Report shows more public investment needed to ensure high quality care and education for our young children
Dublin December 3rd – Early years services need to be seen as providing a public service, not as private businesses.
That’s according to a new report from Start Strong – a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland.
“Currently early years services are run on a market model with services expected to operate as businesses. This is not in the best interests of children, as the quality of services is very variable. And it results in fees that are unaffordable to parents” says Ciairín de Buis, Director of Start Strong.
“To change this we need to recognise that early years services are providing a public service and should be funded accordingly.”
Ms de Buis was speaking at a conference in Dublin today [Wed Dec 3rd] called, ‘Childcare’: Business or Profession?
A new report launched on the day has concluded that much greater levels of direct public investment are needed to ensure high quality early year care and education for all children. The report compared the Irish market for ‘childcare’ to other countries with market provision and was written by Professors Helen Penn and Eva Lloyd from the International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare, at the University of East London.
In his opening address at the conference, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James ReilIy T.D. noted that “investment in the early years is well-demonstrated to have the most profound impact on outcomes for children – but only where the services provided are of high quality. Therefore, improving the quality of childcare services is something we as stakeholders should all be committed to – whether it is as members of Government, members of childcare organisations, as service providers, childcare professionals or as parents.”
Ireland invests just 0.2 per cent of GDP in early year care and education, which compares poorly to the OECD average of 0.7 per cent. Internationally, 1 per cent of GDP is recommended by UNICEF to achieve quality early childhood services.
Ms Ciairín de Buis said, “While there are many excellent crèches and pre-schools, we also know from the RTE investigation, A Breach of Trust that the quality of early years care and education here is variable. No child should be in a poor quality service. We need public investment in our pre-school children, not just once they reach school going age.”
“Unlike teachers, those working in early years aren’t always seen as professionals even though their contribution to children’s development can be just as profound” said de Buis. “For ‘childcare’ to be recognised as a profession early years educators must have the qualifications, wages and working conditions and career development pathways – as well as the public esteem – that characterise a profession” added Ms De Buis.