The Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs today launched a consultation on Education-focused Inspections in early years settings participating in the government’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme. Key groups and individuals working in the early years sector were briefed on the consultation by senior officials from both departments at a meeting in Dublin today.
The Early Years Education-focused Inspections will be carried out in ECCE pre-schools by Early Years Inspectors in the Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate. The inspections will monitor the quality of the educational experiences provided for children.
They will provide practical advice and recommendations about how provision for children’s learning and development in such settings can be improved. The education-focused inspections will complement the regulatory inspections carried out by TUSLA and are one of a range of measures being taken to improve the quality of early years education and care.
The consultation will give people working in the early years sector an opportunity to comment on the way these inspections are to be carried out. The planned education-focused inspections will be unannounced, one-day inspections. The Early Years Inspectors from the Department of Education and Skills will evaluate the quality of the educational provision in the pre-schools and they will give feedback and advice to practitioners.
Each inspection will result in a written report on the quality of educational provision in the setting and all education-focused inspection reports will be published on the website of the Department of Education and Skills. The reports will also be hosted on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
The education-focused inspections will be piloted in Autumn 2015 in a number of early years settings participating in the ECCE scheme. Early years settings participating in the pilot and the early years sector more generally will be invited to give their views on the new form of inspection as it is being developed.
Commenting on the consultation, Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan said: “In 2015, we will spend €600,000 on the immediate recruitment of the first ever team of early childhood education inspectors. This consultation will give us the opportunity to make sure that this team will work with the early childhood sector to promote good educational practice.”
Also speaking in advance of the launch, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly said: “The introduction of education-focused inspections is an essential element of improving the quality of early-years education, alongside the introduction of the 'Better Start' support service which will send mentors into childcare facilities to help them improve the quality of care and education.”
Speaking at the launch, representatives of both the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills welcomed the opportunity for all involved in early years provision to work together to provide the best for children in their early years.
The Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Funding during 2015 will amount to €175m.
The ECCE scheme, introduced in 2010, provides a free pre-school year for children in the year before they start school. Currently, there are over four thousand early childhood settings in Ireland delivering the free pre-school year.
As part of the Government’s initiative to improve quality and standards in early years education, an Early Years Inspectorate is being established to carry out education-focused inspections. The Early Years Inspectorate will be part of the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills. Details of a recruitment competition for positions as Early Years Inspectors will be advertised by the Public Appointments Service on Friday 29 May 2015.