Childhood Professionals are taking to the streets today calling for increased investment in early childhood care and education — including a Government backed payscale for the early years workforce.
The rally is the first-ever national demonstration at Dáil Éireann, organised by the early years sector, and is being led by the Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP). Supporters from all corners of Ireland are gathering outside Leinster House today with the rally cry ‘Quality Costs, Invest Now’.
The driving fact behind the rally is that Ireland currently spends 0.2% of GDP on the early childhood sector, compared to an OECD average of 0.7%.
ACP Chairperson Marian Quinn said that the early childhood workforce represents in excess of 25,000 people and needs to become funded and regulated properly to meet the needs of its employees and employers — and by extension those of children and families.
Research carried out among the profession found that the average rate of pay is less than €11, just above the minimum wage of €8.65.
Ms. Quinn said: “Qualified and experienced professionals working in this sector are earning little more than minimum wage and many people are leaving as they can no longer afford to remain working in the sector.
“As employers and employees we are, by virtue of our low wages (and voluntary time for meeting parents, admin and maintenance), subsidising early childhood education and care. We are demanding that the government steps in and recognises its responsibility to provide sufficient funding to adequately resource high quality provision for children.”
Specific changes which childhood workers are calling for include:
The introduction of a national payscale for childhood professionals that is tied to increased government investment — to be in place within three to five years
The ECCE Scheme (free pre-school year) contract to be extended to cease making seasonal workers of qualified experienced practitioners
Increased availability and uptake of Fetac level 6, Degree and Continuous Professional Development courses
Investment in the babies to three years age group.
The rally is being addressed by childhood expert Professor Noirín Hayes and a number of politicians. It is also being attended and supported by IMPACT, SIPTU, Barnardos, Early Childhood Ireland, the National Women’s Council and the Union of Students in Ireland.
Ms. Quinn continued: “Traditionally, the care and education of children in pre-school years has been viewed as a family responsibility rather than a government and societal one — and this thinking needs to change. Today’s rally provides the opportunity for childhood professionals from across Ireland to come together and demand a change that is a necessary and positive development for society as a whole.”
There is a wealth of international evidence which shows that high quality early childhood care and education supports positive development of children, reduces longer term disadvantage in society and also strengthens the skills and knowledge base of the workforce.
“The pre-school stage must become recognised as a critical and integral part of the State’s responsibility in care and education. Our children only get one childhood, so it is crucially important that we get it right for them and for their families,” Ms. Quinn stated.