Dáil Éireann - Volume 603 - 14 June, 2005

Written Answers. - Child Care Services.

  598. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the progress of the implementation of the model framework for education training and professional development in the early childhood care and education sector since its publication in 2002; the efforts he has made or intends to make to improve professional qualifications and quality standards for the early childhood care and education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19179/05]

  Mr. McDowell:The Minister for Education and Science announced the introduction of a national framework of qualifications which is creating a single, coherent and more easily understood system of educational and vocational qualifications. To inform this process for the child care sector, a sub-group of the national child care co-ordinating committee developed a framework entitled, Quality Childcare and Lifelong Learning: A Model Framework for Education, Training [1834] and Professional Development in the Early Childhood Care and Education Sector, which I was pleased to launch in autumn 2002. The model framework describes a set of commonly agreed core value statements for child care as well as the key knowledge and skills necessary to practice child care in a range of occupational roles from basic to expert practitioner. These occupational profiles also set out the expected key tasks and responsibilities of practitioners which should be supported by a broad range of skills and knowledge.

The model framework was formally submitted to the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Further Education and Training Awards Council, FETAC, and the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC to assist them in their deliberations with respect to the accreditation of child care awards. The model framework has also become important in the development of a number of new and innovative child care education and training courses by a variety of institutions.

[1835] Since its introduction, the model framework has been widely disseminated and influential in the construction of a clear vision for the future development of a flexible and reflective child care work force which holds the needs and best interests of the child at its centre and is focused on achieving the highest standards for both the children cared for and their carers. The model framework was one of the first in what is now a long line of policy initiatives on the issue of quality in child care. The core value statements identified in the model framework are also influencing the national framework of quality in the early childhood care and education setting, which is being developed by the Centre for Early Child Development and Education established by my colleague the Minister for Education and Science.

Since 2000 funding in excess of €44 million has been approved under the quality improvement strand of the equal opportunities child care programme, which includes support for training initiatives aimed at child care practitioners. As a result there has been a significant increase in the qualifications base of child care workers. In 2000, approximately 23% of staff employed in child care facilities surveyed in the national child care census had a formal qualification at the equivalent of FETAC level two or higher. By 2004 this proportion had risen to 49% on the basis of staff employed in facilities surveyed in the 2004 annual survey of equal opportunities child care programme beneficiaries. I am confident that the levels of well qualified staff working in the child care sector will continue to grow.