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Press release, 07/03/2011: New government will only achieve its education ambitions if it prioritises the youngest children

New government will only achieve its education ambitions if it prioritises the youngest children

7th March 2011


Start Strong, a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning for children’s early care and education, welcomes the new Programme for Government but warns that the new Government will only achieve its education ambitions if it develops a national plan for the long-term development of early childhood care and education.

Start Strong Director Ciairín de Buis said, “The new Programme for Government aims to put Ireland’s educational performance in the top ten OECD countries. If the Government wants to achieve that aim, it has to start with the youngest children.”

“The research evidence shows that investment in children’s earliest years has the highest returns of all”, she said.

Responding to the publication of the Programme for Government, Ms de Buis today said that “I was delighted to see that the Government plans to draw from top performing education models like Finland. When they look at Finland, they will see that Finland’s educational success is built on strong foundations of investment in high quality, affordable care and education for all young children.”

“We welcome the commitments made in the Programme for Government to maintain the Free Pre-School Year, to improve its quality, and to invest in additional supports for disadvantaged children. But these commitments will not go far enough. There are many ways in which Ireland’s early care and education fail to meet international standards. If we don’t meet more international standards for services and supports in children’s early years, how can we hope to meet international standards for educational outcomes?”

In order to help meet international standards for early childhood provision, Start Strong has called for the new Government to develop a 10-year national plan for early care and education.

Unlike most OECD countries, Ireland has no comprehensive national plan for early childhood education and care. While Start Strong acknowledges the stark budgetary difficulties the Government faces, it argues that the planning must begin now if we are to significantly improve Ireland’s performance over the next decade.



Notes to the Editor:
Start Strong is a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland.

In a UNICEF League Table published in 2008, Ireland comes bottom of the list amongst 25 economically advanced countries, meeting just one of ten minimum standards. The existence of a national plan for children’s early care and education is one of the benchmarks used by UNICEF.

Start Strong recently published Children 2020: Planning Now, for the Future which sets out what children’s early care and education in Ireland could be in 10 years’ time. The first step identified in the report is to develop a long-term national plan for children’s early care and education.

Children 2020: Planning Now, for the Future is available at www.startstrong.ie In the report, Start Strong sets out 5 key principles for a 10-year plan and proposes both short-term recommendations that the Government could introduce now at little or no cost and more long-term ambitious recommendations. Immediate recommendations include:
• The development of a national plan.
• Ensuring that government funding only goes to quality services.
• Publishing inspection reports on early care and education settings.

Start Strong have engaged Goodbody Economic Consultants to complete financial costings of their proposals and engage in a cost-benefit analysis exercise. This work is currently being completed.

Start Strong is supported by the Katharine Howard Foundation, the Irish Youth Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies


For further information or comment contact:
Ciairín de Buis, Start Strong: (01) 7910101 or (087) 1207103.


Start Strong
3rd Floor, 6/7 Exchange Place
IFSC, Dublin 1

Tel: 01 791 0100
www.startstrong.ie

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