There is a general disquiet in the Irish Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector about the sustainability of initiatives and best practice guidelines in the context of low status, pay and investment. The ECCE Scheme (2010; DCYA, 2018b) provided access to three hours of “free” ECCE for children aged 2.8 years who could continue to avail of the ECCE until they reached 5.6 years old (DCYA, 2018b). Ireland, under the Barcelona Summit (2002), was obliged to provide increased access to ECCE to (European Commission, 2008) to increase women’s participation in the labour market (European Commission, 2008). However, the introduction of the ECCE scheme (2010) contributed to already existing structural and financial challenges in the provision of quality ECCE. To explore parental and practitioners’ experiences of the scheme, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 practitioners and 15 parents. Findings reveal that the scheme seems to have been unsuccessful in supporting practitioners in meeting quality standards, the costs associated with the introduction of the scheme as well as in meeting the needs of working parents for accessible ECCE.


ECCE Scheme (2010), Quality ECEC, Early Childhood Education and Care, Grounded Theory, Qualitative Inquiry

Author Bio(s)

Ayooluwa Yewande Oke is a PhD student in Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland. She is currently an early childhood lecturer and founder of TeachKloud, a digital management application for early childhood services. She also works as an early childhood consultant, specialising in the development of regulatory compliance frameworks for early childhood inspection agencies. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: ayooluwa.oke@mycit.ie.

Dr. Judith E Butler is course coordinator of the BA in Early Childhood Education & Care at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Judith supervises postgraduate research and lectures in Developmental, Educational & Child Psychology. Judith has extensive experience working with and on behalf of children. She is also currently the National President of OMEP Ireland, the mission of which is to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood experiences by supporting early years research. Judith is an editor of An Leanbh Óg- the Irish Journal of Early Childhood Studies.

Cian O’ Neill, PhD, is the Head of the Department of Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies at Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland. As the former Director of Physical Education at the University of Limerick, O’ Neill’s research interests in the educational domain focus on initial teacher education (ITE) with an emphasis in Physical Education and the School Placement experience (formerly known as Teaching Practice). Other research interests include the physiological measurement of elite sports performance and the role of performance analysis in coaching science.

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