07 February, 2014 - Minister Quinn launches the Final report on the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme for early years care and education

Report provides blueprint for achieving gold standard of care and education for 0 to 6 year olds

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., today launched the Final report on the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme.

This programme is aimed at assisting those who care for children aged 0 to 6 to meet the quality standards of Síolta, which is the National Framework for Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) settings.  This would include child-minders who care for children in their homes, crèches, Montessoris, and infant classes in primary schools. 

Publishing the final report today, Minister Quinn emphasised the importance of quality in ECCE settings.

“Every parent who entrusts the care of their very young children to another person, or indeed a school, wants to be assured that their child is receiving high quality care and education.  We know how important this is to promote children’s well-being, their development and also in laying the foundation for their future success in life.”

“The Síolta Quality Assurance Programme is a tool that will help those involved in early childhood care and education to achieve the gold standards that we all want to see in all settings involving our 0 to 6 year olds.”

The Síolta Quality Assurance Programme was piloted on a phased basis over the period 2009 – 2013 and 57 ECCE settings completed the programme during this time. The Programme involved each setting being supported by a Síolta mentor through an intensive twelve step process.

A key element of this process was self-assessment by the service of their own performance against the Síolta quality standards.  These self-assessments were externally validated and included a site visit.

The Quality Assurance Programme was managed by the Early Years Policy Unit in the Department of Education and Skills with key support being provided through the Voluntary Childcare Organisations and Early Intervention Programmes.

Minister Quinn added, “There is clearly an appetite from ECCE practitioners to engage with the Síolta Quality agenda and aspire to achieving the highest standards possible.  When they do, this engagement has made a really positive impact on the level of quality of care and education for young children. 

“While I acknowledge that we have put in place a demanding benchmark that may take some time for all of our early childhood settings to achieve, I believe this is a worthy aspiration and with the right support and mentoring it can be achieved.”

Alongside the findings of this evaluation are a number of other important developments in the ECCE sector. These include the plans by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald T.D. to establish a new National Quality Support Service for pre-school services.  Consultations are on-going on its establishment following funding being provided for it in Budget 2014. The new support service will work directly with ECCE services to improve quality, including supporting services to implement Síolta and Aistear, which is the National Curriculum Framework for the early years.

To assist the development of this new support service, Minister Quinn has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to develop a set of practice guidelines drawing on core elements of Síolta and Aistear.

The guidelines will allow the new support service to focus their quality support actions on the areas of practice which have been identified though research as most in need of development, such as planning and evaluation, curriculum, identity and belonging.

The DES will continue to work closely with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on these and other aspects of the national quality agenda to ensure that there is a clear emphasis on improving the quality of provision in the ECCE sector.

The Final Report on the Development and Implementation of the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme is available at http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/S%C3%ADolta-Final-Report.pdf