Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Questions (241)

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

241. Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 1006, 1009 and 1010 of 27 May 2014, if he will provide an estimate of the number of child care staff currently in the workforce who will be forced to upskill in order to meet the increased qualification requirements; the way in which the €3 million is being made available for this purpose and the way potential staff members who require upskilling can seek to draw down the funds to pay for their upskilling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23840/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

International evidence tells us that raising the qualification levels of staff working with children is key to improving the quality of services. As part of the ongoing progression of the pre-school quality agenda, it was announced last year that by September 2015 all staff working with children in early years services would have to have a minimum Level 5 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework in early years care and education, or an equivalent qualification. In addition, by September 2015, Preschool Leaders delivering the free pre-school provision under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme will have to have a minimum Level 6 qualification, or equivalent. It is estimated that over 85% of staff working in the childcare sector already hold a Level 5 or equivalent qualification.

In March this year the launch of a Learner Fund to assist existing staff working directly with children in registered early years services to meet the new requirements, was announced. The Fund, which is being administered by Pobal with the help of local City and County Childcare Committees, has a total allocation of €3 million for the years 2014 and 2015 and will be used to subsidise the cost for eligible learners to undertake accredited Level 5 and Level 6 courses.

A panel of more than 50 training providers has been approved to deliver the training programmes following the completion of an Expression of Interest process. The fund closed for applications from staff seeking support under the programme at the end of April. Over 2,200 staff have applied to the fund. The cost to staff will be €25 per module with the fund providing the balance of up to €175 per module. The funding available will be sufficient to provide for all the applications on hand. The applications for support are currently being assessed and training will commence in September this year.