Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education, was developed by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. It was published in 2006, following a three-year developmental process, which involved consultation with more than 50 diverse organisations, representing childcare workers, teachers, parents, policy makers, researchers and other interested parties. Síolta is designed to define, assess and support the improvement of quality across all aspects of practice in early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings where children aged birth to six years are present. These settings include:-
- Full and Part-time Day-care
- Sessional services
- Infant classes in primary schools
Since December 2008, the Early Years Education Policy Unit, in the Department of Education and Skills, has been responsible for the implementation of Síolta. Early Childhood Care and Education services participating in the Free Pre-School Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme are required to “adhere to the principles of Síolta”.
Core Elements of Síolta
Síolta is comprised of three distinct but inter-related elements: Principles, Standards and Components of Quality. The 12 Principles provide the overall vision of the Framework, while the 16 Standards and 75 Components allow for the practical application of this vision across all aspects of ECCE practice. The Components of Quality are further explained by a set of Signposts for Reflection and are intended to support practitioners of early education settings to become aware of and to offer opportunities for reflective practice. These core elements of Síolta are set out in detail in each of the Síolta user manuals. For more information go to http://siolta.ie/
Aistear is the Early Years Curriculum Framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. The NCCA developed Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (2009) in partnership with the early childhood sector. Parents played a key role in this. Effective early childhood settings and schools take account of the influence of the home on children’s learning and they build on the experience children bring to the setting or school. Establishing strong links with parents helps make children's education as successful as possible.
Highlighting the fact that children learn many different things at the same time, the Framework uses four interconnected themes to describe the content of children's learning and development:-
- Identity and Belonging
- Exploring and Thinking.
Aistear through the four themes, Well-being, Identity and Belonging, Exploring and Thinking and Communicating, seeks to create competent and confident learners. Offaly County Childcare Committee incorporates the four themes in all their work.
Aistear highlights the critical role of play, relationships and language for young children's learning. In doing this, it provides a guide to using play, interactions, and partnerships with parents and assessment to help children progress in their learning and development. The Framework has both implicit and explicit links with the Primary School Curriculum (1999).
For more information and lots of useful resources go to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Aistear Toolkit at http://www.ncca.ie