A leading Cork expert in the field of early years education and care (ECEC) has called for greater investment in the sector.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Judith Butler, lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) said that the overwhelming evidence worldwide is that high quality early childhood care and education pays and it pays handsomely in terms of the gains for children and society as a whole.
She warned however that the sector does not pay highly skilled graduate led workforce sufficiently and that this is a huge issue in Ireland in terms of staff turnover and dissatisfaction.
“We have failed historically to invest in ECEC provision in a proper way,” said Dr Butler.
“We need to devote 20 times what we spent in 2017 to come even close to what our Scandinavian neighbours invest.
“These are the world leaders in the provision of high quality education and care for children and we can learn from them,” she added.
Dr Butler explained that investment in the sector is not reaching the practitioners who are forced to sign on during the summer months and other holidays.
“It would be far more beneficial to put investment into the salaries of the professionals working in ECEC,” she said, highlighting a recent SIPTU survey which found ECEC practitioners are “unsatisfied with their pay and conditions” but still “very passionate about the sector”.
“The reason they kept going back to their job was because of the children themselves.
“However, they said despite their dedication and enthusiasm, there were a few factors that made it really difficult for them to see a future for themselves in the sector.
“The survey reveals a profession living in poverty with low pay and a lack of basic entitlements,” she added.
“The results of this report are deeply worrying but of course are not surprising to those of us involved in this profession.
“Substantial investment in quality provision is urgently required and is certainly long overdue.”