Starting a Naíonra

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Bunú Naíonra

We’ve put together a short guide for anyone interested in starting a naíonra. You can explore sections of it by clicking on the headings below, and you can download it in full here, in Irish or English:

If you’d like a member of our team to contact you about starting a naíonra, please fill in the short form at the bottom of this page.

Anyone who is interested in starting a naíonra must adhere to the Regulations under the Child Care Act, 1991 (Early Years Services), 2016, as well as any other relevant legislation.

There is also extra support and advice available from Gaeloideachas development staff members and from Na Naíonraí Gaelacha for those in the 26 counties outside the Gaeltacht, from Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta for those in the Gaeltacht areas and from Altram in the North in relation to immersion education at the early years level. General support and advice is available from the childcare committees.

Practical Steps

Below is an overview of some of the practical steps which could be taken in starting a naíonra. Some of the measures outlined below will have to be done in parallel with each other depending on the timescale involved in opening  the naíonra.

Liaising with Gaeloideachas Development Officers

Gaeloideachas provides support to anyone who wishes to start a naíonra service. The staff will be able to advise you regarding immersion education in the naíonraí, the general supports that are available, grants and Gaeloideachas schemes, and otherwise.

Visiting a naíonra

It is well worthwhile visiting a naíonra to get a taste of the type of service provided there. Gaeloideachas can give you contact details of some naíonraí.

Mentoring

Speak to Gaeloideachas about organising mentoring with another naíonra teacher, an experienced person in the opportunities and challenges relating to implementing early years education in an early years service. There are over 180 naíonraí currently in operation outside of the Gaeltacht and the teachers working in them have very valuable experience. Gaeloideachas could organise a local mentor for you.

Childcare Committees

There are childcare committees, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, operating around the country to support the development of childcare services on a local and national basis. They provide support, information and training services for the early years sector. Gaeloideachas strongly recommends that you liaise with your local childcare committee if you are thinking of opening a naíonra. They have a lot of expertise and they will be able to give you additional information in relation to the local context and the various national schemes (ECCE, CCS/P, TEC). Furthermore, the local childcare committee will be able to advise you about preliminary inspections and the various requirements that are under the Regulations. All details of the childcare committees are available here.

Gaeloideachas Supports

Gaeloideachas provides advice, help and support to people seeking an all-Irish education for their children, as well as providing support and advocacy services for those working in the sector.

Grants

These grants focus on the cost of equipment, books and miscellaneous expenses up to €800. One of the main criteria to be  be met in order to receive this grant is to ensure that the Irish language is the language of communication and business in the naíonra and that early immersion education is being practiced in the naíonra, namely, that communication with the children is in Irish only. Please note that this grant is subject to the organisation’s budgets and demand. Contact us on 01 8535195 or at eolas@gaeloideachas.ie to enquire about the grant.

Schemes

Gaeloideachas has two schemes available to naíonraí when they’re open: Le Chéile trí Ghaeilge and Ar Scáth a Chéile.

Resources

Gaeloideachas has developed a very practical guidebook, Tumoideachas sa Naíonra, which focuses on the implementation of and effective planning for immersion education in the naíonra. The book is full of useful information for new teachers in relation to language acquisition and learning, play, Aistear and Síolta, planning matters and otherwise.

Gaeloideachas also has two websites containing many valuable resources: www.gaeilgedonnaionra.ie agus www.irishforparents.ie .

The resources on www.gaeilgedonnaionra.ie focus on those who are working in naíonraí, or who are interested in working in naíonraí in the future, and who want to build up their confidence and their ability in Irish. The site focuses on the independent learner who wishes to be able to access teaching material at a time and pace that suits him or her – material based on his or her own special needs.

The material on the site relates to (i) vocabulary (ii) language structure (iii) pronunciation (iv) songs based on life in the naíonra. Various media are used to give the user the opportunity to practise vocabulary and language structure, listen to pronunciation and songs, and avail of explanations on language structures. The explanations on the language structure ar in English, to accommodate the various language levels. All of the examples, recordings and structures are based on the life in the naíonra.

The site, www.IrishforParents.ie is very useful for naíonraí who are thinking of providing Irish classes for parents or who want to encourage naíonra parents to broaden their own Irish. The site is full of resources aimed at both parents language needs and the needs of the teachers who teach them Irish.

Gaeloideachas publishes various newsletters on a regular basis. Included is a specialised newsletter which focuses on naíonraí which is available every fortnight during term time. You can register for that newsletter or for another one of our newsletters here.

Gaeloideachas staff receive a lot of queries from new naíonraí regarding resources, posters and other material that can be used in the naíonra room. There are some recommendations available here.

Brochures and information leaflets

There is a lot of promotional material available from Gaeloideachas which focus on naíonraí and on parents. They give a general overview on immersion education and it’s advantages, as well as responses on frequently asked questions by parents. You can see what is available and complete the order form here.

Roll books, registration forms, accident and incident books

These booklets are available to order from eolas@gaeloideachas.ie.

Training courses

Gaeloideachas organises courses for naíonraí on immersion education, Aistear, Síolta, marketing and other specialised subjects. If you are interested in attending any of the courses or if there is a demand for a particular workshop in your area, please contact the organisation.

Online Forum

Gaeloideachas has a private Facebook group for Naíonra Teachers. Information is shared on it about interesting resources, updates from the sector, policies and templates, and other interesting stories. The group acts as a forum as well and naíonra teachers have an opportunity to share resources and to seek advice from one another on certain issues. Take part in the discussion and sharing of resources on Facebook.

Vacancies

Gaeloideachas is more than happy to assist a naíonra in advertising their vacancies free of charge on our website or on social media.

Feasibility

If you are thinking of establishing a naíonra you need to have a good understanding of the needs for a preschool service through Irish in the area and undertake a feasibility study to ensure that the service will be profitable. It is worthwhile undertaking an analysis on the current population and on the projected population in the area, economic trends and employment trends, as well as research on the types of early years services that already exist (if any).

Surveys and public consultations can also be used to assess the community’s interest in the service by circulating questionnaires and information leaflets. It would also be worthwhile to seek advice from all Irish schools in the area, if the provision is there.

There is advice, information and statistics available from the Central Statistics Office, from the Childcare Committees, Local Enterprise Offices and Gaeloideachas as well which will assist you in compiling the relevant information.

The main reason for undertaking market research is to investigate and report the commercial viability of the naíonra, as well as planning in advance in terms of accommodation and staffing.

Business Plan

A business plan is very important for the operation of a naíonra. The following could be included in your business plan:

  • The idea behind the service
  • Your experience and qualifications in relation to childcare services, staff supervision and managing a business
  • The competitive advantage of the business (consider the advantages of immersion education and bilingualism)
  • The users of the service
  • Market research
  • Marketing/promoting the service
  • Recruitment (i.e. qualified staff in the naíonra)
  • Budget (income and expenditure)

A business plan is necessary to apply for funding and for certain grants also.

What type of service would you like to provide?

When you are developing your business plan, you will have to make a decision on the type of service you would like to provide and on its legal structure. Most naíonraí provide sessional services (in comparison to day care services) and there are primarily two types of structures – private services (profit sector) and community services (not for profit). The Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) is available in both services. 

In private naíonraí, the service is under the ownership of an owner/of owners and they are responsible for managing and running it. It can be a sole trader, partnership or a limited company. Income is secured from parents’ fees and from the ECCE scheme.

A voluntary committee will be in charge of community naíonraí. Priority is given to families on a low income usually and they will provide  some support schemes.

Governance

If you intend opening a brand new naíonra, you must ensure that the service complies with all of the legislative requirements set down in law. Included is the relevant planning permission, regulations relating to building matters, fire safety and the Regulations under The Child Care Act, 1991 (Early years services), 2016. It is against the law for early years services to operate without being registered with Tusla.

Registration and a Preliminary Tusla Inspection

In accordance with the law, people or services who are interested in establishing a new naíonra must make an application to the Inspection Office in Tusla a minimum of three months before it is intended to open the service. You can contact them at ey.registration@tusla.ie or on 061 461700. There will be a registration application form (RAF) to fill in online as well as other  relevant documentation required. Included in these are Garda Síochána Vetting, identification documents, a plan of the building design, information regarding insurance, policies and certain procedures, planning permission certificate, safety statement, etc.

It will take some time to collect and compile all of the documents and evidence that is required. There is a course that can be taken online beforehand to assist with understanding the process. There is further support available from the childcare committee in relation to all the documents to be submitted and the development of policies and procedures.

Remember that services changing the type of service they provide must also submit notice to Tusla. This means that services who are adding an extra room to the service, increasing their numbers or adding a naíonra room to the service already in place, must provide information to Tusla in relation to these changes. All information is available here.  

Regulations and regular inspections

Two types of inspections apply to naíonraí and to early years services – one with Tusla and another one with the Department of Education and Skills. These assist in determining that a high quality service is being provided to the children in the naíonra.

All early years services must register with the Child and Family Agency, Tusla. Tusla undertakes regular inspections on all early years services to ensure that they are complying with the fundamental requirements as set out in the Child Care Regulations. The areas inspected by Tusla include:

  • Management and staff provision
  • Quality of care
  • Quality of service
  • The building
  • Safety
  • Equipment

This means that naíonraí must have the relevant insurance, fire safety policies, procedures and policies, as well as the implementation of the correct ratios.

Tusla inspection reports are published publicly on https://www.tusla.ie/services/preschool-services/

The Department of Education and Skills undertake inspections which focus on education matters in the early years. This inspection only focuses on services who participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) where an inspection is undertaken on the quality of the children’s learning experience.

A qualification framework is applied during this inspection which is based on the principles in Aistear, the National Qualification Framework for Early Childhood Education. Language development is one of the  main objectives of  learning in naíonraí participating in the scheme. In the Department’s qualification framework, the references to ‘language’ relate to Irish in the case of a naíonra. You can read inspection reports on www.education.ie .

On top of that, Pobal visits naíonraí participating in the ECCE scheme and in other national schemes on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties under the scheme. This is in relation to money matters and fees; number of children and their attendance and staff qualifications. Further information is available here http://www.limerickchildcare.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Compliance-2018-2019-Provider-Checklist.pdf

Policies, Statements and Procedures

Policies, statements and procedures must be developed and established to support the provision of a high quality practice in the service. There are 21 essential documents specified in Schedule 5 of the Regulations under the Child Care Act, 1991 (Early years services), 2016. Included are the following:

Name

Theme

Statement of Procedures and Function

Governance

Complaints Policy

Governance

Policy on Administration of Medication

Safety

Policy on Infection

Safety

Policy on Managing Behaviour

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

Policy on Safe Sleep

Safety

Policy on Fire Safety

Safety

Inclusion Policy

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

Outings Policy

Safety

Accidents and Incidents Policy

Safety

Policy on Authorisation to Collect Children

Safety

Policy on Healthy Eating

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

Policy on Outdoor Play

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

Policy on Staff Absences*

Governance

Policy on the Use of Internet and Photographic and Recording Devices

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

 

Recruitment Policy

Governance

Risk Management Policy

Safety

Settling In Policy

Health, Welfare and Development of the Child

Staff Training Policy

Governance

Staff Supervision Policy*

Governance

Safety Statement

Governance

* this is not applicable to an individual worker

 

Sample templates of these policies are available from Tusla which can be tailored for your own naíonra. Some of these will be required for the preliminary inspection phase. Refer to the Tusla website. These policies must be made available in Irish only or in both languages (Irish and English).

Accommodation

If you identify a need for a naíonra in the area and that it is possible for you to provide the service, you can begin with research on accommodation matters.

If you are establishing a brand new naíonra, you will have to ensure that the building is suitable, inside and outside, to provide a naíonra service in it. It must meet the legislative requirements set down in the Regulations under the Child Care Act, 1991 (Early Years services), 2016, as well as the regulations relating to building matters and fire safety. Information must be obtained from your local county council concerning planning conditions in your area.

The following should be considered  while assessing the building’s location and suitability. There are a few different choices regarding the accommodation:

  • Purchasing or building a new purpose-built building for a preschool
  • The adaptation of a private building or a public building which already exists for a naíonra
  • The expansion of a building which already exists (i.e. adding an extension to the building)
  • Building a room as part of a pre-established service

When deciding the suitability of the location the following should be considered:

  • Sufficient space for parents, guardians or childminders to leave the children at the naíonra and to collect them afterwards
  • Sufficient parking for the staff
  • Sufficient space for outdoor play – which is required for the provision of a high quality preschool service
  • Is it close to schools, housing developments and facilities?

By law, it is essential to acquire planning permission in the following circumstances:

  • The construction of a new building
  • The expansion of a building or preschool centre that already exists
  • The refurbishment of a space, garage or a room in a dwelling
  • Changing the use of a building

When seeking planning permission insert the following in the application:

  • The type of building
  • The number and age of children registered and the number of staff
  • The hours and days in operation
  • The amount of space available
  • The management and arrangement of the play area outdoors
  • Parking, disembarkation area, space for turning

It would be worthwhile contacting the local council to seek a consultation session for planning permission. A planning officer will advise on the suitability of the location to open or build a naíonra. A person from the childcare committee might be available to advise you on the location to ensure that it is suitable for a new naíonra.

Every naíonra will have to acquire fire safety verification for the service. This verification is undertaken mostly as part of the planning permission process.

Marketing and Recruitment

Advertising and promotion of the naíonra will add to the continuous success of your service. Gaeloideachas can support you in launching a marketing campaign. The marketing handbook, Inis do Scéal, is available from the organisation, which also offers further guidance.

The following are ideas on advertising and promoting your service:

  • Contact with the local schools, in particular the all-Irish schools
  • Public meetings/ coffee mornings with parents and guardians
  • Development of an internet site
  • Development of your naíonra’s profile on the social media
  • Notices in community centres (churches, credit unions, banks, post offices, shops, sports centres, libraries, medical centres, doctors, etc.)
  • The local media
  • Loca forums

Recruitment

The naíonra needs to develop and implement a recruitment policy which specifies the procedures in relation to recruiting employees and unpaid workers. In the policy the steps to be taken are set down in order to check and pursue references, qualifications and vetting documentation.

According to Síolta (CECDE 2006, 8), the abilities, qualifications, attitude and experience of adults working in an early years setting are of the utmost importance and in their ability to consider their role (Standard 11, Síolta CECDE 2006: 83).

What qualifications are required to work as a naíonra teacher?

According to Tusla, naíonra teachers must have the same qualifications as staff members in an early years service operating in English. On top of that, they must have the appropriate proficiency in Irish in order to be able complete every aspect of their work at a high standard through the medium of Irish. You need to remember that the early years teacher is the main source of Irish for the majority of the children. The children will depend on him or her to provide them with a good preschool experience through the medium of Irish.

The teacher is responsible for everything relating to the naíonra, the language and early education programme and the overall administration of the naíonra. It is the early years teacher who organises activities which are interesting, motivational, enjoyable and suitable for the age and ability of the children in the naíonra (Hickey, 1999). Effective management and planning is needed in order to provide the children with worthwhile opportunities to use the target language with other children and with the early years teacher herself/ himself. (Hickey & de Mejia, 2014).

With regard to Irish, the early years teacher must have a high standard of Irish, between fluency, accuracy and phonetics. He or she should understand how children acquire the second language and plan his/ her work accordingly. Natural language is required which suits the naíonra setting and the child. The early years teacher praises and encourages the child’s efforts in acquiring the second language.

The teacher should enhance his/ her ability in Irish by communicating with the Irish language community and the Gaeltacht community and by enhancing his or her accuracy in the language, between spoken and written Irish. The teacher should have Leibhéal B2 in the European Certificate in Irish (TEG) system. Information in relation to the TEG system is available from Gaeloideachas or on www.teg.ie.

Irish Language Courses

There are Irish language courses on line to suit the language range that is suitable for the naíonra on www.gaeilgedonnaionra.ie. There is a lot of information regarding general qualifications available on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ website. Refer in particular to these links:

DCYA Early Years Qualifications, Early Childhood Ireland Qualifications and Requirements.

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