Symposium Examines Provision of Early Childhood Education

Posted on: 19 October 2015

Budget announcements on the expansion of the free pre-school year programme were top of the agenda at a symposium focusing on early childhood education in Ireland held in Trinity College Dublin on Thursday, October 15th, 2015.

Organised by the Researching Early Childhood Education Collaborative (RECEC) at the School of Education, Trinity in partnership with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the event saw researchers and other stakeholders reflect on what early childhood education means and looks like for children and teachers in Ireland, and what implications this has for curriculum development and practice. The NCCA’s remit is to advise on curriculum and assessment for early childhood education and is now working on the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide to support practitioners in providing the high-quality experiences that children need and deserve.

At the event, researchers from a variety of academic institutions presented research papers on topics ranging from learning environments to the challenges associated with professional identity in the early childhood care and education sector. The symposium, brought together academics and researchers from across the early childhood education arena, to look at international and national evidence on high-quality early education with a view to developing a research agenda to inform both pedagogy and policy in this critical first stage of education.

Nóirín Hayes, Visiting Professor at the School of Education, and organiser of the event said: “Given the budget announcement that the age range for the free preschool year has been widened to allow for up to two free years, it is timely to reflect on the provision of early childhood education in Ireland. Research has shown that children in their early years (birth to 8 years) benefit from high quality early educational experiences. While the compulsory school age is 6 years in Ireland, we have a history of sending children to school from the age of four. In many ways, this has masked the absence of a well-established early years sector for younger children and failed to provide opportunities for considering how relevant and appropriate early childhood education is for the children attending different settings.”

Dr Anne Looney, CEO NCCA, closed the symposium and pointed to the challenge of ensuring that as the sector expands we keep the focus where it is most needed – on children, the quality of their experiences and the quality of their learning.

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