The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education


Welcome to the user manual for Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. This manual contains the Principles, Standards, Components of Quality and Signposts for Reflection which make up the main body of Síolta.The manual has been designed to support your engagement with the Framework and may be used by you as an individual practitioner, in working with colleagues in your setting and also as a support for networking with other professional colleagues who work with young children from birth to six years. The contents of the manual are outlined below:

The Principles of Quality

The Principles of Quality represent the vision which underpins and provides the context for quality practice in ECCE in Ireland. They are inter-dependent and individual Principles are not intended to stand alone. They inform quality practice but will not be included in the assessment processes.

The Standards and Components of Quality

The Standards and Components of Quality define quality practice within the Framework. These are the items which will be assessed. The Standards and Components are closely related. Each Standard has a number of associated Components that break down the Standards into 'bite-sized' items. The Standard, with its associated Components, is printed at the beginning of each of the sixteen sections.

Signposts for Reflection and Think Abouts

Each Component has a number of Signposts for Reflection which are made up of questions followed by bullet points called 'Think Abouts'. These can be described as discussion points or thought provoking suggestions. They can be used by individuals who wish to take some time to consider their own work; and by groups, either within an individual setting or in a larger network. They offer a focus for discussion about quality improvement in individual work, in the work of the setting or in a number of other situations. They are open-ended, there are no right or wrong answers and, most importantly, they are not tick boxes. Some of the Signposts have been divided up into different groups according to whether special attention is required for a particular age. If the Signposts apply to practice with all ages of children they are called 'General'. It is hoped that the Signposts will help those using this manual to ask more questions and raise more discussion points relevant to their own work.


When you are using the Components and Signposts, you will find the following link See with a Component number/numbers beside it. This means that the Component is relevant to the one you are thinking/talking about, and it might be helpful for you to look at that Component to enrich your discussion. For example, in Component 2.4 there is a cross-reference to Component 9.1 See 9.1. This means that when you are working with 2.4 you can look up 9.1 and talk/think about how it affects the Component 2.4. This will help you look at all aspects of your work.

Additional Sections

The Resources section gives information on resources (books, websites, organisations, etc.) which will be helpful in putting Síolta into practice. Where appropriate, the resource item has the number of the relevant Standard beside it. It is intended that anyone working with Síolta will use this section as a base and will add on other resources that they find helpful. It is hoped to eventually share such additional suggestions with everyone using the Framework.

There are three Appendices:

Appendix 1 gives a sample list of Policies and Procedures for settings to draw on. It is not a complete list and it is up to the setting to decide what policies and procedures are applicable to its own situation.

Appendix 2 gives a sample list of Legislation and Regulation as a guide for settings in considering what legislation and regulations apply to the setting.

Appendix 3, the National Framework of Qualifications Grid of Level Indicators, is included to provide information on the way in which the various training and qualification levels of those working within the ECCE sector fit together within the Framework devised by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. It is included specifically to support you when working with the Standard on Professional Practice.

Steps for use:

  • It may be useful to make brief notes for future reference.
  • Go to the relevant section of the colour-coded manual where you will find the text of the Standard and the Components that go with it.
  • Select the Component you want to work with.
  • Go to the relevant page in that section where you will find the text of the Component and the Signposts for Reflection.
  • Cross-referencing: See page 3 for note on crossreferencing.
  • Read the Component and the Signposts for Reflection carefully.
  • Check the Resources section to identify materials and resources that may assist you in working with the Component.
  • It may be useful to make brief notes for future reference.


Síolta challenges everyone working in the ECCE sector to think about the quality of the experiences we provide for young children. This manual aims to make the process of working with the Framework as clear as possible. It is intended that the discussion, reflection and debate on the Principles, Standards, Components and Signposts will enrich both the lives of children and the professional practice of adults.

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