Dr Sheila Garrity and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD
Apr 11 2017 Posted: 16:14 IST

At the recent Early Childhood Ireland annual conference, Dr Sheila Garrity, research associate for the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, highlighted the ongoing challenges for the professionalisation of the early childhood education and care sector to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD.

The theme for this year’s conference was entitled ‘Valuing the Early Childhood Professional’. Early Childhood Ireland represents over 3,600 childcare members who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool and full day care provision nationwide. Its work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs 25,000 people today.

Dr Garrity from NUI Galway took the opportunity to speak with Minister Zappone to highlight the opportunities available for early childhood educators to undertake a BA or Masters programme in Early Childhood Studies and Practice at the University.

The BA and Masters programmes at NUI Galway are offered on a part time blended learning basis, which meet the needs of busy professionals working in, or supporting the early years care and education sector. Dr Garrity highlighted the ongoing challenges for the professionalisation of the early childhood education and care sector and the lack of financial and other supports for professionals wishing to up-skill to degree level.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommends that 60% of early childhood educators should be qualified to degree level to ensure quality early childhood education and care provision. A robust body of research, include the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) study in the UK (Sylva et al, 2004) indicates the correlation between early childhood education and care professionals qualifications and quality experiences for young children. Currently in Ireland the percentage of early childhood educators with qualifications above a level seven degree on the National Qualifications Framework stands at 18%.

Dr Garrity at NUI Galway, states:“There is a huge need to address the lack of supports and initiatives for early childhood professionals to up-skill to degree level, which is clearly correlated with increased quality provision and practice.”

For further information about the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, visit: http://www.childandfamilyresearch.ie/

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