I propose to take Questions Nos. 693 to 697, inclusive, together.
Under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 the requirements for an adult practitioner in pre-school services are set out at Part II, Article 5 of the Regulations.
Nearly all pre-school services in the State are now participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. This programme requires that staff members acting as pre-school year leaders hold a childcare qualification equivalent to FETAC Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland (NFQ). A higher capitation rate is available to sessional playschool services participating in the ECCE programme in which all childcare workers have qualification levels above the minimum requirements for the programme. Staff working with children under the ECCE programme, as pre-school assistants, are not required to hold an educational qualification.
Pobal, which administers the childcare support programmes on behalf, of my Department compiles an Annual Survey of the Early Years Sectors which provide information in relation to the level of qualifications of practitioners in the childcare sector. According to Pobal's Annual Survey of the Early Years Sector 2011 there are in the region of 4,300 childcare services participating in the ECCE programme and approximately 3,280 of these services responded to the survey. Of this number, some 2,920 provided information on the level of training/qualifications of some 17,000 staff working with children. The results, which did not distinguish between those working with children enrolled for the ECCE programme and other children in the childcare service, show that 96% of these services have a least one staff member qualified to FETAC Level 5 or higher, 75.2% have at least one member qualified to FETAC Level 6 or higher and 34% have a least one member qualified to HETAC Level 7 or higher. The number of services with one staff member qualified to HETAC Level 8 and above and HETAC Level 9 and above is 22.3% and 3.2% respectively. As the Deputy is aware my Department has commenced work on Ireland's first-ever Early Years Strategy and in the terms of reference, as approved by Government, I expressly included the need to consider "a robust system of regulation and inspection", for the new Early Years Strategy. Part of this will include improving access to quality reliable information on services and performance. I have asked the recently established Expert Advisory Group to prioritise a review of this matter.
It is expected that in time a register of staff qualifications will be developed and providers should encourage staff to record the relevant details of their qualifications there.