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This research aimed to investigate parents’ perspectives on early childhood care and education (ECEC) policy in Ireland and the associated funding programmes available to them. A qualitative research approach was adopted, using semi-structured interviews and a focus group as a research tool to gain an insight into the experiences of families regarding ECEC. Parents availing of current ECEC funding programmes and grandparents who care for their grandchildren were identified as a representative sub group of the research population.
Key findings suggest families are invisible in ECEC funding policy despite their fundamental role as co-educators in their child’s learning. Another key finding was the invisible child within policy, with the thrust for target driven age and stage based norms dominating policy. Despite their de facto exclusion from funding programmes, grandparents were found to be crucial in supporting families’ childcare arrangements through a process of mutual exchange. The traditional role of kinship is a driving factor in this emerging childcare sector.
The perspective purported to underpin Irish childcare policy is that of children’s rights, with the acknowledgement of the child’s social and cultural environments. Yet, in practice the political economic perspective dominates policy, with emphasis on the target driven priority of education and school readiness.
Key recommendations which arise from the study suggest that Irish ECEC funding policy needs to reaffirm its commitment to family and children as pivotal in the ECEC process. Real and substantive parental involvement policies and practices must be developed to re-establish the fundamental role parents play in the child’s early years. The role grandparents play in childcare needs to be acknowledged and supported through policy.
Nelson, T. (2013) They Just Don't Care about the Caring: Parents Perspectives of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy and Associated Funding Programmes. Masters Dissertation, Dublin Institute of Technology.