Staff working in both Pre-school and Crèche services, supported by the Border Counties Childhood Network (BCCN) across the North East and North West, came together recently for a timely conference to celebrate their participation in the BCCN Síolta/Aistear Quality Awareness Programme.

Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Aistear, the National Curriculum Framework for Early Education are two essential frameworks developed in recent years by the Department of Education and Skills to enhance the quality of educational experiences for young children in Early Years’ settings.

The conference provided an opportunity for Early Years staff and others working within the sector (Early Years’ inspectors, County Childcare Committee support staff and college lecturers delivering ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) training programmes to learn of and respond to new policy developments at national level.

The event was organised by the BCCN, a quality support and training agency funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Pre-school and Crèche staff from 370 services, operating in Counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Louth, Monaghan and Meath have regularly attended Síolta/Aistear professional development seminars and workshops delivered by BCCN.

Staff from 25 of these services who succeeded in attending all training sessions during this period received particular recognition and praise from Dr. Maresa Duignan, Department of Education and Skills, who has played a leading role in the development of the Síolta Framework.

In addition, staff from 10 services that have advanced to a further stage in achieving the quality standards by formally participating in the BCCN Síolta/Aistear Quality Assurance Programme, were presented with certificates by Arlene Forster, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), to give recognition to their advanced commitment to quality improvement.

Finn Community Childcare based in Stranorlar was once such place to receive a certificate.

“The work required by staff to achieve all of the standards at a high level as outlined in Síolta and Aistear takes a great deal of time, dedication and commitment by the whole staff team, especially in services catering for babies and toddlers as well as pre-school children.

“It is important that we take time to give recognition to this work” said Denise Mc Cormilla, CEO BCCN. “There is currently no financial reward for services that deliver to a higher standard and for that reason BCCN has organised this Services Recognition Ceremony to highlight Early Years’ staff that are highly committed to continuing professional development and on-going quality improvement”.

Dr. Maresa Duignan and Arlene Forster both praised BCCN and the Early Years staff involved in the BCCN quality improvement work for their commitment to quality.

A report by BCCN on Supporting Early Childhood Services to Meet the National Quality Standards Outlined in Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education, was presented to Dr Duignan and Ms Forster.

The report highlights the many challenges facing services working to deliver to a high standard and contains fifty recommendations to Government that BCCN considers need to be addressed by a number of Government Departments to secure the appropriate conditions required for all Early Years’ services to achieve and sustain national quality standards in the future.

Following the Services Recognition Ceremony, information on significant new developments that will impact on the delivery of all Early Years’ services in the future was presented by Dr. Duignan and Ms. Forster and by Fiona Mc Donnell from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Delegates at the event were asked for their response to the information provided through round table discussions which were lively and provided much food for thought.

The morning’s proceedings were followed by a passionate presentation by Marian Quinn, Chairperson of the Association for Childhood Professionals (ACP) on Raising the Status of the Early Years’ sector.

Ms Quinn called on the Early Years’ workforce to “come together in calling on Government for increased capitation to improve pay and conditions and secure the delivery of services to meet high quality standards for all children”.

Joining Ms Quinn in this call to the sector, Denise Mc Cormilla said “the delivery of quality services is not sustainable unless qualified and well trained staff with the right heart, values and attitude for working with babies and young children are employed and appropriately remunerated for the valuable work that they do”.

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