University of Limerick
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Irish approaches to early childhood education and care: policy and practice

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posted on 2023-10-18, 14:11 authored by Lisa Kiely

This research examined the quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) policy and practice in Ireland.

According to the OECD (2001, 125, emphasis in original), there are eight key elements of ECEC policy which “are likely to promote equitable access to quality ECEC”. These are:

 A systemic and integrated approach to policy development and mplementation

 A strong and equal partnership with the education system

 A universal approach to access, with particular attention to children in need of special support

 Substantial public investment in ECEC services and infrastructure is necessary

 A participatory approach to quality improvement and assurance

 Staff in all forms of provision require appropriate training and working conditions

 Systematic attention to monitoring and data collection

 A stable framework and long-term agenda for research and evaluation as part of a continuous improvement process.

Utilising the eight components of ECEC quality identified by the OECD (2001), Irish efforts to achieve quality ECEC were examined. It was noted that while Ireland is making progress in relation to each of the OECD’s eight components of quality, Irish approaches to ECEC remain fragmented and room for improvement continues to exist.

In order to examine the standard of ECEC provision in Ireland both the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale–Revised and Extended (ECERS-R & E) were applied to twenty-six sessional ECEC services. Although the sample size was small, the ECERS-R & E data provides a unique snapshot into the quality of sessional ECEC services. The findings from the ECERS-R & E data indicate that the quality of the provision observed varied both across and also within services.

Through an analysis of Irish approaches to ECEC this research makes a significant contribution to current understandings of ECEC quality. In particular this research highlights some of the areas of both ECEC policy and practice that may need further improvement in order to meet internationally recognised standards of quality.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Maura Adshead

Department or School

  • School of Education

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