Dáil Éireann - Volume 455 - 27 June, 1995

Written Answers. - Pre-school Programme.

110. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Education her views on the concerns being expressed that the early start pre-school service programme recently introduced on a pilot scheme in eight centres throughout the county is having a negative and detrimental effect on the careers of pre-existing and experienced child care workers; if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by a Limerick group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11922/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I am aware of the concerns referred to by the Deputy.

The objective of the early start pre-school programme, set up in October 1994, is to expose young children to an educational programme which will enhance their overall development and lay a foundation for successful attainment in future years.

In establishing the early start pre-school programme, I was fully aware of the valuable role played by community groups in providing services for children of pre-school age. It is not intended that the early start programme should in any way compete with or duplicate such initiatives.

The early start programme has a fundamentally different focus from other services provided in this area. It has precise curricular objectives. Each pre-school is an integral part of the primary school to which it is attached and operates within the general framework of the primary system. Each pre-school employs fully qualified primary school [132] teachers and qualified child care assistants. Parental involvement in the activities of the pre-school is a fundamental part of this project. In contrast, the services provided under local community initiatives tend to cater for a wider age group and have a more social and child care orientation than that of the pre-schools established under the early start programme.