Minister O'Gorman welcomes the launch of ‘Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland’, the Report of the OECD’s Country Policy Review.
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., today welcomed the launch by the OECD of its Country Policy Review of Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland.
The OECD review, entitled ’Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland’, focused particularly on the quality of provision. The report found that:
- Public investment in Early Learning and Care (ELC) has increased over the last decade and public engagement has increased through the introduction of the ECCE pre-school programme and the National Childcare Scheme, but average expenditure per child remains below the OECD average.
- Qualifications of staff have risen, and the Government has made efforts to raise the quality of initial education programmes for staff, but wages have remained low and staff turnover rates high. However, the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee for Early Years Services in 2021 is an important step towards the development of wage standards.
- The Government has established a range of quality assurance arrangements for the ELC sector and provides ongoing support and guidance to providers on quality improvement, but responsibilities and functions are allocated across different institutions, and access for providers to external support is patchy.
The OECD notes that Ireland is currently pursuing a strong policy agenda for ELC and makes recommendations for Ireland across three areas:
- governance, funding and provision;
- workforce development; and
- quality assurance and improvement.
The OECD notes recommendations align with recent Budget 2022 announcements, including the new core funding stream for the ELC sector, worth an estimated €207 million in a full year as well three major projects underway – a Workforce Plan and a New Funding Model for the sector - both due for publication in the coming weeks and a review of the Operating Model for ELC,due to be published early in 2022.
The Review is part of the OECD’s wider ‘Quality Beyond Regulations’ project, which has aimed to support OECD member countries to consider policies that can effectively enhance process quality in early learning and care. Ireland is one of six OECD countries (along with Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland) that opted for more in-depth participation in the Quality Beyond Regulations project. Ireland opted for a full Country Policy Review by the OECD.
The Review included three country missions to Ireland by the OECD international team of experts, with meetings held online due to the current Covid-19 situation. As part of the country missions, the OECD held meetings with a wide range of stakeholders including parents, providers, practitioners, students, employer and employee representatives, and researchers, and had virtual visits to a number of early learning and care settings.
Welcoming the launch of the report Minister O’Gorman said:
“The OECD Report makes a number of important recommendations on how we should strengthen policies, especially on the quality of provision. I welcome and accept the OECD’s recommendations. The Government has set out an ambitious programme of reform in the early learning and care sector, and many of the recommendations align well with measures to be announced shortly in the forthcoming Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare and the Report of the Export Group on the New Funding Model.
“Recommendations in relation to quality assurance also fit well with commitments in First 5, in the Programme for Government and in the National Action Plan for Childminding. Some recommendations will require further consideration and consultation, and I look forward to working with stakeholders as we reflect on how best to bring them forward.”
The Minister thanked the OECD team for undertaking the review and the European Commission for supporting it. He also thanked the Oversight Group which supported and coordinated the review and all of those who participated in the review, including providers, practitioners, parents, children and students.
View the report launch: https://youtube.com/watch?v=o_k6Dsb6Hi8
MEMO TO EARLY LEARNING AND CARE (ELC) AND SCHOOL-AGE CHILDCARE (SAC) PROVIDERS, INCLUDING CHILDMINDERS,
We are writing to you today regarding the below memo with guidance for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare services, including childminders, on the use of masks for children aged 9 and older.
Early Years Communications Team
Early Years Division
Minister O’Gorman publishes the findings of a 12-Month Review of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS)
- Review reveals the National Childcare Scheme is having a positive impact on use of early learning and childcare, workforce participation and family finances.
Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has today published the findings of a 12-Month Review of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).
The Review, which was undertaken by independent consultants, looked at the experience of families accessing the NCS during the first year of operation as well as the experience of providers offering the Scheme. An analysis of application data, including processing times and NCS subsidies awarded was also undertaken, in addition to engagement with key stakeholders.
Findings from the Review point to a number of positives for families accessing the NCS, with large proportions of parents reporting that the Scheme had positively impacted their use of early learning childcare, their engagement in work or study and their family finances.
The report found that:
- Overall, 38% of families reported that half or more of their early learning and childcare costs were covered by the NCS.
- More than half (56%) reported that the Scheme meant they had more money to spend (with 11% reporting they had much more money to spend).
- Just over a quarter (26%) reported that they were using more early learning and childcare.
- Just over a quarter (28%) reported that they were working more (with 8% reporting they would not be in work without the NCS).
The Review also found that the majority of families applied online for support under the NCS, with 66% of these applications processed within one day and 29% processed within 2 to 10 days. Moreover, most families found the application process easier than expected.
Findings from the Review also identified some emerging issues with the Scheme that need to be addressed, including low awareness of the Scheme among parents, administrative issues experienced by providers and barriers for some families accessing supports under the Scheme, including through the NCS sponsorship arrangements.
In parallel with the publication of the 12 Month Review of the National Childcare Scheme, the Minster also published a Work-Study Test Evidence Review.
The findings from both Reviews have already informed enhancements to the National Childcare Scheme announced in Budget 2022, specifically:
- An extension to the NCS universal subsidy to all children under 15 from September 2022, benefitting up to 40,000 children.
- An end to the practice of deducting hours spent in pre-school or school from the entitlement to NCS subsidised hours from spring 2022, benefitting an estimated 5,000 children from low income families.
In addition to this, an action plan has been developed by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability and Youth and Pobal (the NCS Administrator) that will respond to emerging issues with the Scheme.
Announcing the publication of the reports, Minister O’Gorman said:
“Government is committed to making high-quality early learning and childcare affordable and accessible to all children.
"The findings from the Review published today show the National Childcare Scheme has brought us some distance to realising this commitment– with families reporting that supports under the National Childcare Scheme has increased their use of early learning and childcare, their engagement in work or study as well as improved their family finances. The enhancements to the NCS I announced as part of Budget 2022, informed by the findings from this Review, will bring further benefits to these and other families.
"The Review did identify some emerging issues with the Scheme – among vulnerable families and among providers. Officials in my Department are taking the necessary actions to address these issues to ensure going forward this scheme works in the best interest of all children and families, and administrative issues identified by providers are reduced.”