More investment needed in Early Childhood Care and Education

Ann-Marie Brown, ACP Rally

youngballymun was delighted to support the call for increased investment in early childhood care and education at a national rally on Tuesday 17th February.  The Learning Years service team along with several early years practitioners from community-based early years centres in Ballymun assembled with colleagues from across the country to make a stand for increased investment in quality services for young children.  Ann-Marie Brown, pictured, an early childhood professional working in Poppintree Early Education Centre was one of the participants.  (Photograph courtesy of Conor Healy, with thanks).

youngballymun CE Eleanor McClorey was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd.  This is what she said:

"In youngballymun we believe that a child thrives in a world that is connected.

Children grow and develop in an eco-system of care, support and influence  - home, family, friends, health services, early childhood care and education, schools, community supports.

Each of these link and connect, forming a critical eco-system around the child.  We need this system to be strong so that children really can thrive.

Childhood professionals are an essential part of the eco-system around the child and family. You play a fundamental role in healthy child development and well-being. 

Children learn from you  

  • that  we can all learn and develop new skills
  • that the world is full of interest and wonder
  • that  the world is a safe place to be and grow
  • that our choices, decisions and opinions are valued
  • that we all encounter problems and challenges
  • that we can solve problems and fix mistakes

The importance of the work of the early childhood professional cannot be underestimated - your daily work, every day, is

  • Supporting early brain development
  • Nurturing social and emotional health
  • Supporting early language development
  • Building a positive disposition for exploration and learning

If we really value children, we also need to value your crucial work.   

Unfortunately, we have many experiences of how your work hasn't been valued enough, is not being valued.  

In Ballymun three early care and education services have closed in recent years due to the financial instability of the sector.  These are services where the managers and staff were leading the implementation of Highscope, an evidence based curriculum fully aligned with Aistear and working towards formal Siolta validation;  providing children with the highest standards of practice and care. The most recent closure was a large service in a centre purpose built for early childhood care and education as part of the investment in the regeneration of Ballymun.  

youngballymun continues to support quality early years practice development with eight creche and preschool settings; we work with more than one hundred and fifty childhood professionals, and over 1,000 children have benefited from The Learning Years, our quality practice partnership with early childhood professionals. 

But our early years care and education partners in Ballymun are vulnerable - teetering on the brink of sustainability; unable to offer staff the standards of employment that reflect their training, their expertise, and their commitment to children.  

For community-based early years centres in Ballymun and around the country, the figures just don't add up.  They can't add up because the national investment in appropriate conditions of employment and ongoing professional development for childhood professionals is simply not adequate.

The first priority for our younger children therefore is not the introduction of a second free pre-school year.  We need to fully fund the existing preschool year first.  We cannot allow the free pre-school year to continue to be subsidised by the unacceptable working conditions of professional practitioners. 

For youngballymun investment in a sustainable model of early childhood care and education has to be built on the foundations of security and standards of employment for staff working with young children. A professional salary scale linked with qualifications and experience and access to a programme of accredited continuous professional training and development. 

When we invest in the profession of early childhood care and education, it will be an important practical statement that as a society we really do value, and cherish our children."