The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education

Quality Assurance Programme (QAP)

Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP)
Since the publication of Síolta in 2006, many early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings and individual practitioners (in the case of childminders) have engaged informally with the Framework, using it to give them ideas, reflect on their practice to better meet the needs of the young children in their care. This informal engagement has been supported by the dissemination of Síolta documentation and a large number of Síolta information workshops across the country.

Formal engagement with Síolta involves an ECCE setting implementing the full Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP), supported by a Síolta Co-ordinator. The Síolta QAP is designed to provide structured, supported engagement for ECCE services who wish to seek external assessment of their service provision/practice against the Síolta Standards and Components of Quality.

The Síolta QAP is a twelve step process whereby an ECCE setting will carry out a range of activities including; baseline self assessment, action planning and quality development work, evidence collection and portfolio building. The setting will be supported in this activity by an experienced, qualified mentor (Síolta Coordinator) who has been trained to guide the setting through each step of the QAP. At the conclusion of these activities, the ECCE setting will submit the completed Síolta portfolio for external validation.

In order to field test the Síolta QAP, an implementation model was developed in 2008 which involved selecting and training Síolta Coordinators and then recruiting a diverse range of ECCE settings to complete the 12 steps of the Síolta QAP. Since 2008, a number of organisations have been working with a range of ECCE settings using the implementation model. These organisations include the Prevention and Early Intervention Programmes in Darndale (Preparing for Life), Ballymun (youngballymun) and Tallaght (West Tallaght Child Development Initiative), the Voluntary Childcare Organisations and The Daughters of Charity.

Recruitment of ECCE settings into the test phase of the Síolta QAP has now been completed and 25 Síolta Coordinators are working nationally with 135 ECCE services across the broad spectrum of service provision including sessional, full and part-time daycare, childminding and infant classes in schools. As this is a field test for the Síolta QAP, some of these services are working towards completion of a portfolio of quality across all 16 Standards and some are concentrating on a selected number of Standards.

An evaluation of the current field test is underway and is being conducted by Goodbody Economic Consultants, with the final report due by the end of 2011. The future implementation of Síolta will be informed by the outcome of this evaluation.

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