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Press Statement, 3/12/2015: Latest ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ report highlights need for investment in quality care to see real impact on young children’s lives

International research points to positive long-term benefits of early years care, but only when it’s of high quality

Start Strong - a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – has warned that significant investment must be made in providing high quality early years care and education in order to see the long-term benefits for our country’s young children.

The call comes as the latest ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ report – Non-Parental Childcare and Child Cognitive Outcomes at Age Five – analyses childcare for three-year-olds and its cognitive effects on children’s language and reasoning abilities at five years old.Growing Up in Ireland logo

Ms Ciairín de Buis, Director of Start Strong, said:

“While the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study offers many valuable insights into the lives of our nation’s children, we need to look at its findings in the context of international research in order to clearly see how best we can improve the lives of children in Ireland.

“Internationally, the research is unequivocal – early years care and education can have substantial positive impacts for young children – but only if it’s of high quality. Unfortunately, the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study does not measure the quality of childcare available across the country. Other evidence suggests that the quality of childcare in Ireland is very variable.

“While the impact of childcare on cognitive outcomes for children in Ireland appears to be limited at present, this very likely reflects the variable quality of childcare here, which is a legacy of many years of under-investment by successive governments.

“The Growing Up in Ireland study also shows that access to early years care and education has been helped significantly by the introduction of the Free Pre School Year (FPSY), but the study is not an evaluation of the FPSY.“

Ms de Buis added:

“This latest report shows that future Governments must take seriously the need for auditing, and investing in, quality in early years care and education. Linking public funding to standards of care, withdrawing funding when these standards are not met, and investing in the professionalisation of the early years workforce are all areas that must be addressed.”

About the report:

  • ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ is a Government-funded study of children being carried out jointly by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin. The study takes place over seven years and follows the progress of two groups of children: 8,000 9-year-olds and 10,000 9-month-olds.
  • The main aim of the study is to paint a full picture of children in Ireland and how they are developing in the current social, economic and cultural environment. This information will be used to assist in policy formation and in the provision of services which will ensure all children will have the best possible start in life.
  • After the initial phase included visits when the groups were 13 and 3 & 5 respectively, earlier this year the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs announced a second phase of ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ that will include further visits to the Child Cohort at 17 and 20 years; and a postal questionnaire to the Infant Cohort at age 7 years with a further interview when they are 9 years old.

Read 'Growing Up in Ireland: Non-Parental Childcare and Child Cognitive Outcomes at Age Five ' here.