The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) was launched in 2016 to enable the inclusion and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. An evaluation of AIM began in December 2020. The evaluation is expected to:
- Provide a detailed understanding of AIM, having regard to the vision, current approach, governance, coverage and external context.
- Ascertain the impact and effectiveness of AIM from the perspective of all stakeholders – investigating insofar as possible outcomes, efficacy, efficiency, adaptability and sustainability.
- Provide an overall assessment of AIM, considering strengths, challenges and opportunities for learning.
The focus of the evaluation is the AIM programme itself. Exploration of recruitment methods in the sector fall outside the scope of the evaluation.
It should be noted that new criteria and guidelines for professional awards in early learning and care at levels 5 through to 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications have recently been published, and new education programmes are currently being introduced on foot of the criteria and guidelines. Guidance has been given on the duration and content of programmes, including requirements for practice placements.
In addition, officials in my Department are currently in the process of developing a new Workforce Development Plan, in collaboration with the Department of Education. The Workforce Development Plan, which will be completed in 2021, will set out plans to raise the profile of careers in the sector and establish role profiles, career pathways, qualification requirements, and associated policy mechanisms, along with leadership development opportunities, and will work towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.
While the Workforce Development Plan may consider the broad relevance of an apprenticeship model to the sector, the development of an apprenticeship relies on the formulation of proposals by employers and education institutions, and approval by the Apprenticeship Council. The consideration and potential introduction of a new apprenticeship model for early learning and care practitioners is therefore not solely a policy matter for my Department.