Gaeloideachas welcomes new plan for Early Years Education, but additional support needed for Naíonraí
Gaeloideachas welcomes the publication of the reforms announced by the Department of Children to support the early learning sector, which will ensure increased investment and assist in developing the profession of early years educators. However, the organisation recommends that targeted support should be provided to naíonraí due to the additional costs and challenges associated with providing their service through the medium of Irish.
Additional investment promised, but without specific provision for early years services through the medium of Irish
A new funding model is set out in the plan, titled Partnership for the Public Good. Many aspects of this model will be welcomed by the sector, including core funding to be provided for early years services, which will assist in improving pay and conditions for staff and reducing the fees paid by parents, as well as an equivalent to the DEIS scheme for schools to support children who are disadvantaged.
There are, however, no details in the new model regarding additional funding for naíonraí, despite the understanding from anecdotal evidence that additional costs can be associated with providing early years services through the medium of Irish. Gaeloideachas and Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta lobbied on this issue during consultations as the funding model was being developed and will continue to do so as the proposals within the plan are put into practice. The priorities for Gaeloideachas are that recognition is given to the additional work done by naíonra teachers to translate materials and ensure they are suitable for immersion education, that compensation is provided for the increased costs for naíonraí to purchase suitable resources for the naíonra, and that funding is made available to ensure an allowance can be paid to teams working in naíonraí, a measure which would assist with staff recruitment and retention.
Recognising and developing professionalism
A wide range of proposals and a detailed action plan are set out for the sector in the Nurturing Skills plan relating to the promotion of professionalism in the early years sector. The plan focuses on 5 major themes:
- Establishing a professional framework
- Increasing qualification levels
- Establishing a national system for professional development
- Supporting recruitment, retention, and diversity, and
- Moving towards regulation of the sector
“It is acknowledged in the plan that proper provision is not currently being made for naíonraí”, says CEO of Gaeloideachas, Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin. “Initial training is not available through Irish for those who choose a career in the early years sector, and only a small number of institutions offer optional modules through Irish or provision of services through the medium of Irish. We welcome the fact that policies have been set out in the plan for the period 2021-2024 to address this as it is essential that basic training in respect of their career should be available to trainee teachers in their working language”.
It is to be welcomed that the plan includes opportunities for Irish speakers, both those for whom Irish is their first language and those for whom it is their second language, in addition to supporting language proficiency for non-native speakers in English and in Irish.
It is recommended in the plan that a proficiency requirement in English be introduced in services which operate through the medium of English. On the recommendation of Gaeloideachas, however, an equivalent requirement will not be introduced for Irish at the present time. Instead, Gaeloideachas recommended positive supports including bursaries, higher capitation incentives, and wider availability of education programmes through the medium of Irish to encourage greater proficiency in Irish.
President of Gaeloideachas, Seán Ó hArgáin states “Assurances are given in the plan that materials, resources and supports for continuing professional development will be made available in both Irish and English “where possible”. However, the ambiguous wording of this commitment is a cause for concern for Gaeloideachas. Without agreement with stakeholders as to the meaning of “where possible,” there is still a danger that proper provision will not be made for the needs of naíonraí”.
Gaeloideachas will continue to engage with all parties in the early years sector – State agencies, voluntary organisations, and our colleagues in the National Voluntary Childcare Collaborative, of which the organisation is an active member – for the development and growth of naíonraí, the cornerstone of the immersion education system.
Notes for the editor
Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, CEO| firstname.lastname@example.org | 01 8535195 | 086-8050335
Seán Ó hArgáin, President | email@example.com | 056-7765697 | 087-4192322
Anna Ní Chartúir, Public Relations Officer | firstname.lastname@example.org | 085 1351097