Government Approves Development of Ireland’s First National Early Years Strategy
The Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD has announced that she has received the approval of Government to develop Ireland’s first National Early Years Strategy, for children from birth to 6 years.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “We know that early-intervention in children’s lives and quality early childhood experiences are crucial to a child’s emotional, cognitive and social development. As a society we need to work to promote quality childhoods for Irish children not just for their enjoyment but for the good of families, society and the economy.”
“This Strategy will also play a significant part in Ireland’s future economic planning. There is an increasing acceptance and focus internationally on the economic benefits accruing from investment in the early years. Longitudinal studies in the US, England France and New Zealand cite returns to the economy of between three and ten times the original investment. In these studies, children who experience high quality preschool are higher achievers in education and in employment and these benefits also transfer to the next generation.”
“In Ireland’s case, the OECD in its 2011 Economic Survey of Ireland emphasized that in order for Ireland ‘to preserve its strengths in human capital’ we should recognise the importance of pre-school education in having ‘both a positive impact on later educational performance and an equity-enhancing effect.”
“Therefore I am delighted to have received the support of my government colleagues to to prepare, in collaboration with key experts and stakeholders, Ireland’s first National Early Years Strategy, to be completed in 2012. I want this to be an innovative and exciting blueprint for the future strategic development of Ireland’s Early Years Sector.”
Some of the issues I envisage being addressed in this new Strategy include:
· Improving educational outcomes including progressing the objectives of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy;
· Enhancing the quality of early childhood care and education and childminding;
· Improving health and physical fitness outcomes including in response to findings from the ‘Growing up in Ireland’ Study showing the worrying problems of overweight and obesity among Ireland’s 3-years olds;
· Examining approaches to providing targeted early childhood education programmes for disadvantaged children; and
· Increasing positive parental engagement in early childhood care and education.
“The Strategy will support Irish families in bringing up their children, identifying the services they want to have access to and the information that will help them to be confident and secure parents and to improve outcomes for their children.”
The Early Years Strategy will cover all aspects of children’s experiences in their early years including health, family support, care and education and will identify the structures and policies needed to improve early year’s experiences in Ireland.
The Minister first announced the Early Years Strategy while addressing an OECD High Level Conference in Oslo on January 24th 2012 which was attended by ministers from around the world as well as by experts from the OECD, academics, senior public servants and representatives from the early childhood care and education sector.