The Learner Fund bursary for childminders was introduced in 2019 as part of the overall Learner Fund. The bursary is for childminders who achieve a level 5 or level 6 major award in early childhood care and education recognised on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and who register with Tusla. Childminders who are registered with Tusla can also avail of the Learner Fund graduate bursary for level 7 and 8 graduate-level awards in early learning and care.
The graduate and childminder Level 5/6 bursaries operate simultaneously and are funded from the same budget. In 2018 a total of €412,500 was spent on the Learner Fund graduate bursary. In 2019 a total of €368,250 was spent on the overall Learner Fund bursary programme which included both the graduate and childminder Level 5/6 bursaries. In 2020, a total of €390,000 was allocated to the overall Learner Fund bursary programme and also included both the graduate and childminder Level 5/6 bursaries.
The 2019 round of the Learner Fund saw bursaries awarded to 481 applicants for completion of relevant degrees (who may include both centre-based practitioners and childminders), and 10 Tusla-registered childminders for completion of Level 5/6 awards. The data currently available does not distinguish whether a grantee of the Learner Fund graduate bursary is a childminder or a practitioner in centre-based provision. The 2020 round of the Learner Fund bursary has recently closed and awards will be announced shortly.
The number of childminders availing of the Learner Fund is expected to remain very low until regulation is extended to all childminders and bespoke training and qualifications are developed for childminders. Currently there are 77 Tusla-registered childminders. In line with commitments in First 5 and the Programme for Government, a Childminding Action Plan is currently being finalised, with a view to publication in the near future. The Childminding Action Plan will seek to extend the scope of regulation and supports for childminders, accelerate access to subsidies for childminders through the National Childcare Scheme, and develop bespoke training for childminders.