Early years sector urged to find its voice

Early childhood education and care in Ireland has not received the appropriate recognition or support that the sector deserves. The Association of Childhood Professionals held their annual conference in Cork last weekend.  At the conference ACP Chairperson, Marian Quinn, called on the sector to unite and ‘find their voice’ to drive needed reform in early years services.

ACP Chairperson Marian Quinn told delegates in Cork on Saturday that a lack of resources and inadequate policy continue to compromise the quality of service provision.   “€320m has been taken out of early childhood care and education in recent years. In many services practitioner’s hours are being cut and they are maintaining quality through voluntary hours.   “As professionals we need to come together as one voice and engage constructively with government and public agencies. The government must realise that quality costs money and support serious investment in early years care and education.”

There are an estimated 25,000 Childhood Professionals working across the country and 4,600 early years’ centres.   Ms. Quinn said that any increase in quality of provision since last year’s landmark ‘Prime Time A Breach of Trust programme’ has mainly been as a result of the practitioners and providers themselves realising that current systems are failing.   “We are a large sector of professionals and need to continue to take leadership in developing better services for children and families. I encourage practitioners to be the driving force for change.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Dr Katherine O’Donnell. She spoke about the importance of care work in society and the lack of appreciation and respect that society places on it. She also explored the role of the childhood professional in providing for the care and education of young children and that the sector needs to ensure that it does not loose it’s care remit as it strives for respect in society. Katherine also talked about Heckmann and his economic argument for investment in early years that is further backed up by research carried out by her colleague Orla Doyle in UCD
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Nicola McCormack, Louise Kilbane, Colette Saunders – ACP Sligo who attended the conference in Cork

June O’Reilly was another keynote speaker at the event and she called on childhood professionals to open their mouths and advocate for their profession. She said that “we need to engage in some TLC -truth, logic and clarity. Our arguments to policy makers, legislators and society in general needs to have all of these elements if we are to force people to recognise us as professionals.”

You can follow the Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) Ireland on twitter @acpire

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