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An Analysis of the Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme from a Practitioner's Perspective

Author Gerardine Neylon
Abstract Irish pre-school provision is undergoing changes in policy and pedagogy as a result of the introduction of the Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme (January 2010). This shift to universal pre-school provision explicitly acknowledges a vast body of research that argues investment in quality early childhood education is vital. Investment needs to rise in the so-called 'Dora the Explorer' years of early childhood relative to the so-called 'Facebook' years of later childhood (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009). Irish pre-school services have been provided by competing sectors across; the private sector, commercial, community based and the state sector. Attendance fees, staff payrates and pedagogical approaches were not uniform. This market-led approach has been contested from a children's rights perspective as it did not ensure equality of access to quality pre-school services for all young children (Hayes, 2005). The new scheme radically changes both employment and pedagogical practices. Now pre-schools are contracted by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (MCYA). Acceptance on the scheme is contingent on agreeing to implement new pedagogical quality and curriculum frameworks Siolta; the Early Childhood Quality Framework, (Centre Early Childhood Development Education, 2006) and Aistear; the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, 2009). This paper describes the scheme and sets out the rationale used by the state in making the change. The paper reports on a phenomenological study which captures the response of sixteen pre-school practitioners to the scheme. It argues that competing sectors have been affected in a different ways by the change.
Keywords Keyword 1, Education 2, Pre-school, 3, Phenomenology, 4, Aistear 5, Siolta
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2012
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