'Make childcare fully professional'
High rates of staff turnover in childcare settings are unsustainable, an industry body has claimed.
The Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) called for an overhaul of the system to include a minimum standard of education for all staff and a national registration for early years practitioners.
The body, which aims to give a voice to an estimated 22,500 professionals nationwide, wants the early-years sector to become a fully-developed professional branch in its own right, similar to teaching, medicine or law.
ACP chairman Marian Quinn said the area also needed accessible progression routes for training, a proper career path and remuneration structure.
She added: "It is unsustainable to continue with the current very high rate of staff turnover and short-term contract working. Research shows that those who are best qualified are leaving the sector for areas with career paths. This creates an ongoing skills gap and de-professionalises the sector."
An undercover sting recently exposed the mistreatment of children in three creche facilities, where secretly-recorded footage showed staff manhandling children, shouting at them, snatching toys from their hands and toddlers strapped in highchairs for hours.
Ms Quinn called for an initial statutory minimum requirement for all childhood professionals of a Fetac level 5 childcare qualification and a national register, with only those who are qualified and registered eligible for employment. All workers in childcare centres, preschools and professionals contracted to care for youngsters in the home would all fall under the proposed regulations.
She added: "This qualification is currently required for professionals delivering the ECCE progamme (free pre-school year), but not for other age groups of children in childcare settings."
The ACP also called for a standard "childhood sector contract" to be developed which include permanent contracts in pre-schools to improve continuity in the work place and bring greater job security for staff.
"Achieving this scale of overhaul of the system was a long-term project and would require considerable investment and planning from government, including capitation support for all pre-school years and not just the ECCE year," Ms Quinn added at the national launch of the association.