The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education

Síolta - Introductory handbook


When the Minister for Education and Science launched the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) in October 2002, we began a journey without precedent in Ireland. The task to develop a framework of quality across the whole field of early childhood education and for children from birth to six years of age was ambitious, and to accomplish in three short years was seen by some as impossible. A number of contributing factors allowed us to deliver this framework in a comprehensive and timely manner.

First of all, we relied on the strengths of a large number of committed partners in an intensive and far-reaching process of continuous consultation. In fact, this framework has hundreds, if not thousands, of authors throughout the early childhood care and education sector in Ireland. The consultation process was not just limited to the Consultative Committee of over fifty participating organisations, but reached much further, involving many individual parents and professionals who gave their time and expertise enthusiastically and freely. From the beginning of the process, we established and developed a common ground among these very diverse interests and facilitated opportunities and forums for exchange and debate.

Secondly (perhaps most importantly), we started from a perspective which puts the rights and needs of the child first, reflecting the common cause of all those involved in early childhood care and education in Ireland. This perspective transcended the many differences between settings, philosophies and interests.

Thirdly, we firmly based the framework on up-to-date Irish and international policy, practice and research. This evidence-based approach and our openness to challenge and debate has led to a high degree of confidence in our work.

The Framework is uniquely Irish and explicitly positioned in contemporary Ireland, recognising not only her cultural and linguistic heritage, but also economic and demographic change. It understands quality as a dynamic concept, constructed and reconstructed by many participating actors, including children, in an ever-changing society.

In order to underline and highlight the unique character of the Framework we call it 'Síolta'. Síolta is the Irish word for seeds. It expresses the potential of childhood and of this Framework to grow and succeed. It relates to the metaphor of the 'Kindergarten' as a place of care and education, and the role of the educator as a skilful gardener. Most of all, it relates this modern Framework to what has gone before and to the rich heritage of modern Ireland.

Directing the process leading to Síolta has been an immensely exciting experience for me personally and professionally. The close work with a truly wonderful team has been a great privilege and I would like to thank my colleagues at the CECDE for their commitment and dedication. Without the unwavering support and expertise of the Department of Education and Science and the members of our Board of Management and Steering Committee, we could not have completed Síolta and I would like to thank them for that. Our cooperation with a very wide range of supportive partners in Ireland and abroad has been both enjoyable and educational and I am grateful for their valuable contributions and belief in the success of the project.

Finally, on behalf of the CECDE Board and staff, I wish to dedicate Síolta to all young children in Ireland.

Heino Schonfeld
Director CECDE

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