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Foreword to the National Standards for Pre-School Services 

 

Introduction
 
The Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006, which provide the regulatory framework for pre-school services in the State, were made by Brian Lenihan T.D., the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and were brought into effect in September 2007.
 
A Child Care Regulations Implementation Group was established by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) to provide a forum for key stakeholders in the sector during the initial period when the new regulatory requirements were being implemented. Some of the key issues dealt with were the introduction of the requirement for Garda vetting of childcare workers and the introduction of a standardised inspection process for the Pre-School Inspectorate of the Health Service Executive (HSE).
 
In addition, following a request from the HSE, the Regulations Implementation Group agreed to include the development of National Quality Standards for Pre-School Services within its Terms of Reference. In January 2008, a Standards Working Group, chaired by the OMCYA, was established under the aegis of the Regulations Group. Its membership included representatives of the HSE, the City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs), the National Children’s Nurseries Association (NCNA) and Childminding Ireland. The members of the Working Group are listed hereunder. This Standards document is the product of extensive discussions on the part of the Working Group members over the past two and a half years, as well as reflecting the views of primary stakeholders who were consulted during the process.
 
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was consulted when the Standards Working Group was being established. The Authority, which takes a similar approach to implementing regulatory requirements through a quality-based approach to achieving better outcomes was supportive of the project. The National Quality Standards are intended to provide a clear and easy-to-use tool for Pre-School Inspectors, pre-school service providers and parents using pre-school services. The outcomes and the criteria have been designed to be easy to read and easy to understand, and to support providers to deliver a high quality service and support users in choosing the childcare service best suited to their needs.
 
In developing this document, a conscious effort was made to ensure that the Standards would encourage providers to deliver a higher level of quality than is strictly required under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations. However, rather than being problematic for service providers, the Standards should provide them with an effective tool which will enable them to achieve quality outcomes for children through encouraging a more holistic and reflective approach to service delivery.
 
The Standards
 
There are 20 Standards in all. This document relates primarily to full daycare services, although much of the content will apply equally to other service types. It is intended to publish separate Standards covering sessional services, drop-in services and childminding services in the near future. 
 
The Standards are grouped under four headings:
 
The group of Standards relating to “Choosing a Service” is aimed at parents who are choosing a facility for their children, and contains the information they will need to come to an informed decision in relation to their choice.
 
The Standards relating to “Management and Staffing” are aimed primarily at service providers, and contain information relating to the running and ongoing evaluation of the service.
 
The Standards in the group “Quality of Care” relate to the manner in which the children in the service are cared for. These Standards relate to both the physical and the mental well-being of the children.
 
The Standards in the group “Premises and Safety” relate to the physical environment of the childcare facility.
 
Each Standard describes a particular quality outcome, and is accompanied by a set of supporting criteria designed to provide information as to how the outcome can be achieved. Some of the criteria refer to requirements under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 and service providers are obliged by law to meet these requirements. Other criteria are more flexible, and the service provider may choose to take a different route to that stated, in order to achieve the same outcome.
 
The Appendices
 
There are four Appendices to the Standards document.
 
Appendix A is a service set-up protocol, which is a useful set of steps that should be followed by service providers intending to alter or extend an existing pre-school building, change the use of a domestic setting or community building, or build a new service, to ensure the process goes smoothly.
 
Appendix B, which is referred to in Standard 14 (Sleep), contains the additional criteria which must be met when overnight services for pre-school children are provided.
 
Appendix C contains a list of policies, some of which are essential for all pre-school services (these are referred to specifically in the Standards) and others which may or not be applicable to services.
 
Appendix D contains a list of contact addresses and websites which service providers and users may find useful.
 
Implementation of the Standards
 
This document has been approved by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and forwarded to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE, as the body with legal responsibility for enforcing the Child Care (Pre-School) (No 2) Regulations through its Pre-School Inspectorate. The HSE will determine the precise manner in which these Standards will be taken into account in the course of pre-school inspections.
 
Evaluation of the Standards
 
The Standards and the associated criteria will be kept under review, with a view to amending, adding to or subtracting from the document if experience demonstrates this to be necessary or appropriate.
 
Membership of the Working Group
 
Mary Hogan, OMCYA (Chair)
Carolyn Keating, OMCYA (Secretary)
Michele Clark (HIQA) – to June 2009
Mary Giblin, CCCs
Teresa Heeney, NCNA
Karen Mahony (Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education) – to November 2008
Patricia Murray, Childminding Ireland
Fiona McDonnell, HSE (National Pre-school Resource Officer)
Helen Rouine, HSE (Pre-school Officer)
Ann Spain, HSE (Local Manager, Pre-school Services)
Caitriona Stack, HSE (Senior Environmental Health Officer, Pre-school Services)
 
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