Offaly County Childcare Committee -   057 9135878

Industry Updates

Postponing the commencement of minimum qualification requirement for pre-schools

Prior to the introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme in 2010, there was no minimum qualification for staff working in the pre-school sector. Under the ECCE programme, all pre-school leaders were required to hold a Level 5 qualification. In addition, pre-school services could qualify for a higher capitation rate where all the pre-school leaders, in the ECCE room, held a Level 7 qualification, and all the pre-school assistants held a Level 5. This represented a major step forward in improving the quality of early years services.

When the Early Years Quality Agenda was introduced in 2013, in order to improve quality in pre-school services, one of the items to be progressed was the introduction of a requirement that all staff working with children in pre-school services should hold a qualification in early childhood care and education at a minimum of Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework or equivalent and that Pre-school leaders in ECCE services would be required to hold a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent. These requirements were to be introduced with effect from September 2015 following the publication of new Childcare Regulations.

In order to support existing childcare staff to achieve the minimum qualifications, the Government introduced the Learner Fund. €3m was provided under this Fund and more than 2,500 staff have completed or are currently completing training to allow them to meet the minimum requirements.

Despite this investment, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has received feedback that the commencement of the qualification requirement in September 2015 would pose a number of challenges, for the childcare sector.

  • Some staff who availed of the Learner Fund will not have completed their training by September 2015 and would not, therefore, meet the qualification requirement. (It is acknowledged that the completion of the eight components required to achieve a major award, at the same time as working in a fulltime job in childcare, is not easy. It is also acknowledged that many people found it difficult to access the necessary training in their local areas.)
  • The Department has been alerted to the fact that a number of staff did not avail of the Learner Fund because they assumed – or were incorrectly advised – that they already met the qualification requirement.
  • More established professions have regulators who hold lists of approved qualifications. The absence of an official list of approved qualifications for Early Years means that staff – and their employers – cannot easily obtain assurance that the qualifications that they hold will meet the minimum requirements.
  • The absence of this list would also create difficulties for the Early Years Inspectorate who will be charged with inspection of services under the new Childcare Regulations, including staff qualifications.
  • Some community-based services rely on Community Employment workers as core staff within the service staff : child ratios, and these services would face issues of sustainability if these workers were to become supernumerary and they needed to employ more qualified staff.

As the proposed September deadline approaches, the Minister and the Department has taken note of the concerns expressed surrounding the imposition of the minimum qualification requirement from September 2015, particularly the fact that meeting this deadline has proved difficult for many learners and training providers. It is therefore proposed to postpone the commencement of this requirement for a period of 12 months, that is, until September 2016.

The Minister is aware that the introduction of minimum qualification requirements for childcare staff was welcomed by people working in the sector, as well as by parents, as an indication of the Government’s commitment to improving quality in pre-school services, and that any postponement in commencing the minimum qualification requirements will create disappointment. However, the Minister would point to major progress that has been made in improving qualifications in the sector and he remains committed to further improving quality, and to ensuring that everyone working with pre-school children holds a minimum qualification. The Quality Agenda continues to be progressed. However, it is important to make absolutely certain that all childcare staff are given the opportunity to assess their qualification levels and, if necessary to seek the appropriate training in order to up-skill.

The Department has commenced discussions with the Department of Education and Skills and with Pobal regarding the development of a database of recognised qualifications, for use by the sector and by the Inspectorate. The Department aims for this to be in place by the end of the year and it will represent a major resource for potential students, employers and the Tusla Inspectorate. The Department will also work closely with the Department of Social Protection and community providers to agree a way forward for the Community Employment workers in the sector.

The new Childcare Regulations which are being prepared will include the minimum qualification requirements as mandatory for all new services seeking to register with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) following the commencement of the Regulations, but will provide for a 12 month postponement of the requirements for existing services.

Similarly, the ECCE contract for any new services applying to participate in programme for the first time from September 2015 will stipulate that all childcare staff must meet the minimum qualification requirements, and all pre-school leaders must hold a Level 6 qualification. Existing services participating in the ECCE Programme prior to 2015 will be provided a 12 month postponement for this requirement, although we will require evidence that

  • the pre-school leader is enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 6 qualification.
  • the pre-school assistants are enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 5 qualification or hold a signed grandfathering declaration form.

It is acknowledged that the sector had been expecting the minimum qualification requirement to be in place by September 2015, and we apologise that the announcement of the postponement of this requirement is coming at this stage. However, we believe that this postponement is necessary to ensure that all the staff in the sector are clear on the requirements, and that they have the opportunity to achieve the necessary qualifications (if they have not already done so) in order to remain working in the sector. We believe that this would not be the case if we maintain the September 2015 deadline.

We would like to emphasise again the Minister’s and the Department’s commitment to progressing the Early Years Quality Agenda. We support the ongoing professionalism of the sector, and are anxious to include those people who have not yet completed their training. The decision to postpone the commencement of the qualifications requirement is practical in the context of developing a high quality and sustainable sector, which will be in the best interests of children in the long term.

In Summary:

Qualification requirements under the new Childcare Regulations:

The new Childcare Regulations which are being prepared will include the minimum qualification requirements as mandatory for all new services seeking to register with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) following the commencement of the Regulations, but will provide for a 12 month postponement of the requirements for existing services.

Qualification requirements under the ECCE Programme

The ECCE contract for any new services applying to participate in programme for the first time from September 2015 will stipulate that all childcare staff must meet the minimum qualification requirements, and all pre-school leaders must hold a Level 6 qualification. Existing services participating in the ECCE Programme prior to 2015 will be provided a 12 month postponement for this requirement, although we will require evidence that:

  • the pre-school leader is enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 6 qualification.
  • the pre-school assistants are enrolled and engaged in training to meet the Level 5 qualification or hold a signed grandfathering declaration form.

Early Years Policies and Programmes
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
June 2015


Sept 2016: Grandfathering Declaration regarding Qualification Requirements for Early Years Services

From September 2016, all staff in early years services will need to have a full Level 5 Childcare qualification, and all Preschool (ECCE) Room Leaders will need a full Level 6 Childcare qualification.

Exemptions There are some people who have been working with children for many years and who wish to be exempted from the new qualification requirements. As the purpose of up-skilling is to boost quality in the best interests of children, it is only possible to do this in a very limited way.

The Minister has agreed to waive the minimum Level 5 requirement for a small number of staff who will be leaving the sector within the next 7 years. Individuals who expect to retire between September 2015 and September 2021 will not be required to meet the new qualification levels. If you will be due to retire in the coming years, and do not therefore wish to embark on a Level 5 course, you can sign a ‘Grandfathering Declaration’ with your local CCC. This offers a temporary exemption from having to have the Level 5 qualification, and is intended for those who will be retiring soon. Please note that this exemption only applies to the Level 5 qualification requirement and not to the Level 6 requirement.

Please contact Offaly County Childcare Committee if you are planning to retire in the coming years (between September 2015 and September 2021) and do not therefore wish to embark on a Level 5 course.


Early Years Inspectorate Update

In 2014, Tusla, The Child and Family Agency commissioned a Report on the Quality of Pre-School Services. The report indicated that most pre-school 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 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 there are areas which require greater focus and attention. As a result, the Child & 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 revised Inspection Tool and documentation can be downloaded from this website 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. 

Focused Inspection Tool 26/03/2015


Key Worker System

In an early years setting, it is good practice to have a Key Worker system in place. Although there is normally a team caring for the children, a 'Key Worker' should be designated to each child. Organising in this way, means that one practitioner has primary responsibility for gathering in-depth knowledge of the child, based on observations and interactions. 

The Key Worker will foster close bonds with a small number of children in a way that large groups cannot easily do. These groups allow the key person to "tune into" children's play and their conversations, to really get to know the children in their group well. Children feel settled and happy and are more confident to explore and as a result become more capable learners.  

Parents should be given the opportunity to have brief discussions about their child's development with the key worker and have an opportunity to talk through the child's records. The transition from home to service can be a big step for children of all ages but that transition is made much easier with the help of a Key Worker. 

If you require support with introducing a Key Worker System, please contact Ruth in the office on 057-9135878. 

 


Early Years Strategy

Ireland's First Early Years Strategy is being developed. It will focus on the lives of our youngest children and how we as a society can improve them, particularly through the provision of universal services. The Strategy will be written in the context of the Children and Young Peoples Policy Framework which will set out objectives, principles and outcomes that will underpin the age cohort or other strategies that are developed in relation to children. While we know from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study and other research that in general Irish children are happy, are engaged in society and have friends, there are things that we can do to improve their experiences, helping them to become resilient, self-confident and engaged adults and citizens. We can also support parents to help their children learn and develop. There are also children whose lives are not happy and who grow up in circumstances that disadvantage them throughout their lives. The Early Years Strategy will, therefore, set out plans to address a range of issues that affect young children.

‘Right from the Start’, is the report of the Expert Advisory Group established to make recommendations for Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy which is currently being prepared by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

At the launch in 2013, Minister Fitzgerald spoke of the importance of early intervention: “I have consistently highlighted the importance of investing and supporting quality interventions in the early years of children’s lives. In Ireland, we have so much to gain from early intervention in seeking to address major challenges and to interrupt both current and future crises. If we want to improve literacy and numeracy, which is critical; then we must start early. If we want to disrupt the crisis of childhood obesity – a quarter of our three years are overweight or obese - Then we must start early. Put simply: early intervention works; the early years matter.”

Welcoming and accepting the report, the Minister stated: “By setting out such a comprehensive range of recommendations for the continuum of service and support for Irelands youngest children and their families, from early childhood health, to supporting parents to ensuring quality in early years provision; this report brings a much needed focus to areas of policy which for too long were discounted and undervalued.” The Minister said that the high quality of the Report will provide a very strong foundation for finalisation of a robust and meaningful strategy to serve our youngest children and their families well over the coming years. The Minister acknowledged that: “This report provides for the first time, a strategic approach to the development of Ireland early years; not just for now, not for just for this budget, not just for this Government. This is a strategic approach for years to come. I welcome the incremental approach set out in the report. Additional funding and major new programmes will not be rolled out overnight. A multi-annual approach is what is required; and with it’s ‘five peaks over five years’ this report very significantly set out the destinations for a multi-annual roadmap”.

Right From The Start 


 

Garda Vetting

Under the Childcare (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006, all childcare providers and HSE notified child-minders must avail of Garda Vetting for all staff, CE Scheme participants, TÚS participants, volunteers and students over 18 years of age. There must be evidence of this on file in the childcare premises such as the returned certificate advising of the outcome of the Garda Vetting process. This is a key element in ensuring children within services are protected and an important part of ensuring a quality service.

Article 8 (2c) of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 states: ‘Any person carrying on a pre-school service is required to ensure appropriate vetting of all staff, students and volunteers who have access to a child -
(a) by reference to past employer references in particular the most recent employer reference, in respect of all staff, and
(b) by reference to references from reputable sources, in respect of all students and volunteers, and
(c) by acquiring Garda vetting from An Garda Síochána when An Garda Síochána have set down procedures to make such vetting available, and
(d) in circumstances where Garda vetting is not available for staff, students and volunteers who have lived outside the jurisdiction, by ensuring that these persons provide the necessary police vetting from other police authorities.

Section 8 (3) Such vetting procedures shall be carried out prior to any person being appointed or assigned or being allowed access to a child in the pre-school service.

Good practice would suggest that existing staff should be Garda Vetted every five years. The development of appropriate policies in relation to recruitment, child protection, training, garda vetting and reference checking of staff and volunteers within the service is paramount to ensuring the protection and welfare of children in the care of the service and in providing quality childcare.


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