Review provides ‘golden opportunity’ to improve access, affordability and quality of early care and education
Start Strong, a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland has today welcomed the news that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, will this year carry out a review of the state’s investment in early years’ services.
Ciairín de Buis, Start Strong’s Director, said that the Government’s review provides a ‘golden opportunity’ to tackle the high cost to parents of early years’ services as well as ensuring that public money is only invested in high quality early care and education.
“Ireland currently invests very little in children’s early care and education. At the moment we invest 0.4% of our annual GDP which is just over half the OECD average. What this means in practice is that, unlike many other countries, parents in Ireland end up footing nearly all of the bill for early years’ services and for thousands of parents these costs have become unaffordable,” Ciairín de Buis said.
“Clearly, Minister Fitzgerald’s review needs to make sure that parents can afford their children’s early education and this can best be achieved by increasing over time public investment to the OECD average of 0.7% of GDP and ultimately to 1% of GDP. It also needs to look at how the Government can best use such public investment to make sure that services are of a high quality, as no child should be in a poor quality service.
“Children’s early years are a crucial time their educational experience from 0-5 has the most impact on their learning throughout their lives. Quality early care and education will help give them the start they need to live productive, happy and fulfilled lives. However, a poor experience can do profound harm to a child’s life chances. We know from the Prime Time investigation that quality standards in Irish early years’ services are very variable. That’s why it’s vital that we recognise that early care and education is not glorified babysitting by insisting that Government funding only goes to services that meet the required quality standards,” Ciairín de Buis concluded.