Below is the text of the Sinn Féin Motion recognising the value of the early years sector and the need for increased investment.
“Dáil Éireann notes that:
- There are approximately 4,300 services providing early childhood education and care,with an estimated 22,000 staff working in the sector;
- Thousands of early years staff will be forced to sign onto social welfare in the coming weeks for the duration of the summer, due to 38 week work contracts and also as a result of reduced hours of work;
- Many parents choose to remove their children from centres over summer months as a result of the high cost of full day care, which results in services having to reduce working hours;
- Wages within the early years sector often do not reflect staff qualifications and experience;
- The average wage for the profession is significantly below the living wage and that the Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care (CoRe) Report 2011 recommends a graduate-led early years workforce, yet this recommendation cannot be fulfilled if graduates are not retained to work in the sector;
- National and international evidence suggests that high-quality early childhood education and care is beneficial for young children at the foundation stage of their development and that the provision of high-quality early education and care is dependent on quality interactions between early years staff and the children they engage with;
- Therefore, the immediate improvement of working conditions and salaries of those working in the sector are essential for quality improvement;
- Community and private services are currently experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties due to insufficient funding available to pay staff a wage that is commensurate with their role and ever increasing responsibilities, which results in a high staff turnover rate and ‘burnout’ of workers;
- This crisis is creating wider sustainability issues for the sector, resulting in risk of closure to smaller crèches, particularly community crèches nationwide, which will inevitably reduce access to childcare options for parents, while putting staff under increased work pressures; and
Ireland spends significantly less on early years education at 0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product versus the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 0.7 per cent and even less than the international benchmark of 1 per cent; and calls on Government to:
- Recognise the early years sector’s valuable contribution to Irish society of educating and caring for the youngest of Irish citizens, and to treat the early years education sector on a par with other levels of education.
- Ensure the needs of the early years workforce are central to all policy development and investment in order to achieve high-quality early years education and care services.
- Carry out, as a matter of urgency, an independent early years service cost and sustainability review, encompassing the identification and assessment of stress factors impacting on the early childhood services, and distinguishing between the cost of providing a 0–3 years of age service, a pre-school service and an after-school service, in order to provide an accurate calculation of finances needed for the provision of high-quality accessible education and care in both rural and urban areas.
- Increase State funding to average OECD levels to ensure sustainable high-quality provision, professional pay scales and paid non-contact time.
- Commission the development of a nationally agreed pay scale for the early years workforce that recognises qualifications, experience and length of service, using the living wage as a starting point, to ensure higher capitation rates are passed on to staff through an agreed salary scale that reflects qualifications and experience.
- Immediately address the issue of the extra administrative requirement which will be added to providers’ already extensive workload, due to the extension to the Affordable Childcare Scheme, and ensure that both service providers and staff are remunerated for this additional work in adequate time for the implementation of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ extension to current schemes.
- Build paid non-contact time and continuing professional development into the level of capitation provided so that early years staff can plan, document and deliver a highquality programme.
- Prioritise work on the Early Years Strategy to avoid further fragmentation of the sector and to consult widely with the sector in order to sufficiently inform this work.”
— Kathleen Funchion, Gerry Adams, John Brady, Pat Buckley, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin J. Ferris, Martin Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Carol Nolan, Jonathan O’Brien, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Louise O’Reilly, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Maurice Quinlivan, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín.