Councillors' support for early educators
Early Years educators and providers, who are members of the SIPTU Big Start Campaign, made a presentation on the serious challenges facing their sector to Monday's monthly meeting of Wicklow County Council.
Sinead Plunkett, from the Tus Nua Montessori and Playgroup in Bray, said: 'I love my job working and educating young children but I want to be properly valued for the work I do. I think we need to come together in the sector to ensure that we are respected and recognised.'
SIPTU Organiser and Big Start Campaign co-ordinator, Shonagh Byrne, said: 'The Early Years sector is in crisis. Our key message is that to deliver quality Early Years services for our children, we need to attract and retain qualified and competent educators in the sector.'
She added; 'This can only be achieved if the qualifications and experience of these professionals are recognised with appropriate pay and conditions of employment. This will require adequate investment by the State.'
Low pay remains within the sector remains a major issue.
'We need investment over a sustainable period of time to make it a decent sector to work in. Low wages forces many highly qualified individuals to leave the sector,' continued Ms Byrne.
Susan Carey, who runs a Montessori in St Peter's NS, also addressed the elected members.
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme is proving difficult for childcare providers. A deluge of paperwork takes up much of their time. In the summer months many staff members have to sign on, which was described as 'degrading' by Sinead Plunkett.
Cllr Joe Behan read out a notice of motion which received the whole backing of the council. The notice was in the names of Cllr Behan, Cllr Steven Matthews and Cllr Tom Fortune.
'Members of Wicklow County Council are calling on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone to increase investment in Early Childhood Care and Education to ensure that children have access to quality, sustainable and affordable childcare with decent pay and conditions for the professionals in the sector.
'The Council recognises that early years educators are hugely dedicated professionals who care for and educate children during the most crucial years of their development. However, the Irish Government lags behind other European countries in terms of how much we invest in early years education. As a result, many qualified professionals are struggling to make ends meet and providers are struggling to stay open. We call on Minister Zappone to put children first and invest in quality childcare and early years education,' said Cllr Behan.