I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 60 together.
I agree with what the Deputy said. His questions asked about the establishment of childcare Ireland. It is a commitment in the programme for Government. It involves ensuring that childcare Ireland will expand high-quality early learning and care in school-age childcare and that we have best practice and innovation in community and private settings, develop career paths for early learning and care and school-age childcare and expand Síolta, which is the early years curriculum.
Before we set up any new agency, I want to undertake an operational review of the bodies working in the area, something that was called for under First 5, the whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families. This review is now under way. Its objective is to ensure the operating system is fit for purpose and to implement departmental childcare policy related to quality, affordability and accessibility to the scale and standards required in an evolving and expanding sector.
Early learning and care in the school-age childcare sector has grown substantially over the past ten years. The review of the operating model will make recommendations to better support high-quality, accessible and affordable early learning and care and school-age childcare services for families and children and make sure the administration of all of these programmes is undertaken in an effective way. This new operating system will be designed to be transparent. There will be good standards of governance, and it will be accountable and will provide value to the Exchequer.
We want to be able to link what we are doing in my Department with what is happening in other Departments and agencies. The first meeting of the oversight group undertaking the review took place on 16 October and the review will conclude in May 2021. It will be led by my Department, in collaboration with other Departments. It wants to secure an outside consultant by tender before Christmas to assist in some of the research. It is important that we base the assumptions and any changes we undertake on properly completed research. The research will examine the variety of options for the administrative infrastructure of childcare in this country.
That work feeds into two other pieces of work which are relevant to the Deputy's question on wages in the childcare sector. I briefly mentioned the workforce planning model in response to Deputy Paul Murphy. It is all about ensuring that there is a long-term and viable career for childcare professionals, many of whom are undertaking lengthy training and education at levels 7 and 8 before leaving the sector after two or three years cause wages are so low. There is a retention problem. We know that where childcare workers are leaving and staff are not retained, the educational outcomes for children they look after are broken because the children do not have continuity of care with the childcare professional they know.
The funding model is the other element. We are putting a significant amount of money, some €638 million, into the system. We have to be sure that funding is going to the right areas and that staff have good wages, providers are sustainable and parents' out-of-pocket costs are met. Sometimes people give out about research and say it pushes back change by another year but, as I said to Deputy Whitmore, too often when it comes to childcare we just slap something down because it is necessary. We have had this approach for ten years. It is time to take a bigger step and ask how we are going to develop this sector in the long term. Once the three pieces of research to be undertaken next year are complete, we can use that information to make significant decisions.