Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 04 July, 2006

Written Answers. - Pre-School Services.

Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the role of Montessori in developing early childhood education; if her Department has recognised the system for funding and recognised its association as an acceptable regulatory body for developing standards; and the role that she foresees for Montessori in the continuing development of services under her Department. [26388/06]

  Ms Hanafin:The Montessori method of education, among other methods within a very diverse sector, is well recognised and respected and contributes significantly to the development of early childhood education in Ireland. This has included involvement in the development of the draft national quality framework for early childhood education recently published by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education. St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Association is also represented on the National Childcare Coordinating Committee, to allow it to feed into national childcare and early education policy.

With regard to funding, capital and staffing grants are made available to childcare facilities, including those based wholly or partially on the Montessori model, under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 [594] and the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006-2010 administered by the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC).

St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Association, which promotes the development of Montessori education in Ireland, is one of the seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations (NVCOs) which receive annual funding from the OMC under the Quality Sub-Measure of the EOCP for the implementation of childcare Action Plans to allow them to expand their activities and membership, to improve collaboration between the NVCOs themselves and to strengthen linkages with other relevant organisations such as the City/County Childcare Committees.

My Department recognises two Montessori qualifications for the purpose of appointment to the following posts in primary schools: resource teaching posts, special classes and special schools. The two recognised qualifications are (i) the three-year full-time course in the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) College, Mount St. Mary’s, Milltown, Dublin 14 and (ii) the HETAC accredited B.A. in Montessori Education or B.A. (Hons.) in Montessori Education in St. Nicholas Montessori College, Dún Laoghaire. Teachers with Montessori qualifications recognised by my Department are also eligible to work as substitute teachers in mainstream primary schools.

The Teaching Council is the designated authority for recognition of qualifications for the regulated profession of primary teacher. My Department does not regulate qualifications in other early childhood occupations such as pre-schools and crèches in the private sector or in private schools.

Regulation of standards in the pre-school sector is a matter for the Minister for Health and Children under Section 50 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and inspection of standards is carried out by the HSE Pre-School Services Inspectorate in accordance with the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations, 1996 and the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (Amendment) Regulations, 1997.

Montessori education, together with other methods in the early childhood field, will continue to contribute to the development of early childhood care and education services in Ireland. Developments in this sector will be co-ordinated within the overall policy framework of the Office of the Minister for Children, which was established by the Government last December to bring together and promote close co-operation between the relevant areas of my Department, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.