As part of the child care quality agenda aimed at improving the quality of child care services, new qualification requirements for child care staff working directly with children were announced last year. A minimum qualification of Level 5 (or equivalent) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) will be required for all staff working with children in preschool services. The minimum qualification for all preschool leaders delivering the free preschool year under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme will be increased from Level 5 to Level 6 (or equivalent) on the NFQ. The new qualification requirements will apply to all new services from September 2014, and to all existing services by September 2015.
To support staff who are seeking to meet the new qualifications requirement, funding of €3 million is being made available over the two years 2014/2015 under the new Learner Fund which was launched in March this year. The Fund is being administered by Pobal, with the assistance of local City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs). The CCCs are currently reviewing the applications for support and it is expected that all applicants will be informed of the outcome following completion of the process in June.