Childminding Ireland welcomes the Ministers initiative of a National Collaborative Forum for the Early Years Care and Education Sector (The Early Years Forum (EYF)), and looks forward to discussion and debate among stakeholders that will inform policy decisions for the early years sector.

National Collaborative Forum for the Early Years Care and Education Sector

(The Early Years Forum (EYF))

Friday 19th August, 2016

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, has established the National Collaborative Forum for the Early Years Care and Education Sector, which will be known as the Early Years Forum.

The Forum will facilitate the discussion of issues of relevance among key stakeholders, as well as enabling consultation and engagement between the Minister, key Department of Children and Youth Affairs officials, and key representatives of the sector.

Role of the Forum

The Minister will be proposing the following terms of reference for agreement by the members of the Forum at its first meeting:

The Early Years Forum will

·    Provide a forum wherein issues of concern to the sector can be raised, discussed and, where feasible, resolved;

·    Provide a forum for exchange of ideas in relation to early years policy and operational issues, and priority of actions;

·    Ensure that the implications for the early years sector of policy proposals being considered by the Department are examined and understood;

·    Advise the Department on, and inform future policy development in relation to, the early years sector.

·    Assist in effective communication with the wider early years sector; all members of the group will communicate effectively with their constituents on the work and content of NCFEY.

Minister Zappone will chair the first meeting of the Forum on 28th September 2016 and will play an on-going and active role with the forum.

Membership of the Forum

To ensure an interactive forum, with appropriate opportunities for important dialogue and engagement, the Minister has decided to focus the membership of the group on national organisations representing early years providers, and NGOs, Government Departments, Agencies and organisations that assist her Department in fulfilling its duties under its Early Years agenda.   Reflecting the above objective, membership has been designed to represent the whole early years sector, including the national early years representative organisations, early years pedagogy representatives and representation of staff in early years services, the policy makers (including a representative from the Department of Education and Skills), the inspection authorities and the quality support services.  The Minister has written to the relevant bodies seeking nominations to the Forum.

The Minister also intends to conduct a survey of front-line early years service providers to seek their views on current challenges in the sector.  (This will be a follow-up survey to the one conducted by her Department in April 2015.)  The results of this survey will inform the agenda for meetings of the Forum.

“Since I was appointed Minister for Children and Youth Affairs”, the Minister said, “I have been keen to establish a structure through which all the key stakeholders in the early years sector could meet with each other and with key officials to discuss matters, both policy and operational, that are relevant to the sector.  I am delighted, therefore, to announce the establishment of the Early Years Forum and I am looking forward to chairing its first meeting on 28th September.”

The Minister went on to say “Early years care and education is critical to the development of a fair and healthy society and a strong economy.  The early years sector has received significant investment in recent years, but more is needed.  The Programme for Government contains many commitments in this regard and I want to work with members of this Forum to address the many challenges that exist for families and for early years service providers.”

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