SIPTU/USI survey raises questions over future of Early Years workforce

Speaking ahead of the launch of the survey, DCU Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) graduate Clare O’Keeffe said: “It is clear from the survey that students are highly passionate about their role in children’s development. However, they are deeply dissatisfied with the pay, conditions and recognition of their vital role. These students will emerge from college with qualifications but drastic change is needed to retain them in the sector.”

SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The findings of this survey show us the future of the Early Years workforce and a deepening of the staff crisis. Low pay and high turnover of staff is undermining the ability of the sector to deliver high quality, early years education and care. The Government has an opportunity in the upcoming budget to invest in this essential sector. Educators need a path to professional pay and conditions and a Living Wage is the bare minimum the Government needs to provide.”

The survey, conducted by SIPTU’s Big Start campaign and the Union of Students in Ireland, says 87% of those surveyed expressed that low pay is the main obstacle to working in early years sector. The majority (83%) of respondents also stated that they do not receive payment during professional placement with one-third outlining their inability to afford the costs associated with this essential work.

Vice-President for Campaign with USI, Craig McHugh, said: “This report highlights some startling statistics that really do show a need for government intervention to change how this sector operates. While ECEC students in Ireland pay the highest fees in the EU and some of the most expensive rents in the country, they are also shelling out over €30 per week on costs associated with their course. This is a major barrier before a student even enters the qualified workforce.”

Assistant Professor with the Dublin City University (DCU) Institute of Education, Gráinne McKenna, said: “Well-educated, socially-valued professionals are a critical factor in providing high-quality early childhood education and care that promotes favourable cognitive and social outcomes for children. This report highlights the enthusiasm, diligence and commitment of third-level students to quality ECEC and better outcomes for young children. However, the report also provides insight into their lived experiences of low pay, lack of professional recognition, poor working conditions and limited opportunities for career development.”

A total of 841 responses from students attending ECEC programmes across Ireland were received for the survey. The results are correlated from a variety of courses from FETAC Level 5 to Postgraduate level, with students studying either full-time or part-time.

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Ireland’s Strongest Union. #ourSIPTU

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