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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Irish parents shell out for some of the highest childcare fees in Europe

A new report says that Ireland is one of only two countries where there is no minimum level of formal qualification for working with younger children.

Image: baby via Shutterstock

IRISH PARENTS PAY some of the highest childcare fees in Europe.

A new report from Eurostat shows that average monthly fees for early childhood education and care (ECEC) are highest in Ireland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Parents have to pay for ECEC for younger children in all European countries except Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.

Childcare qualifications

The report looks at ECEC across Europe, and found that Ireland is one of two countries (the other being Slovakia) where there is no minimum level of formal qualification for working with younger children.

In addition, there is no minimum qualification for heads of ECEC settings in Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and the UK.

Four education systems in Europe require neither a minimum qualification nor specific training for childminders: Belgium (German-speaking and Flemish communities), Ireland, Slovakia and Liechtenstein.

Joblessness

The report found that one in 10 households with children under six in Europe is jobless, but Ireland is one of three countries (including Bulgaria and the UK) which is well above the EU average when it comes to jobless households.

Of the countries which have set criteria to define children in need of additional support, only Denmark, Ireland and France have not implemented any central measures for disadvantaged children.

“Nevertheless, in Denmark and Ireland, local programmes and initiatives address specific priorities in a given area,” said the report.

Education

Usually, the length of free ECEC provision corresponds to a typical school day, except in Ireland and all parts of the United Kingdom, where free entitlements cover only 10-15 hours a week

Ireland is the only country where primary education starts prior to the beginning of compulsory schooling. Here, children start compulsory education when they are six years old, but from the age of four they can attend infant classes.

Regulations

When it come to regulations, in Ireland, Lithuania and Malta, one staff member cannot look after more than three children under the age of 1.

The report found that few countries regulate the mix of indoor and outdoor
activities.

The regulations that do exist in this area are sometimes very general, stipulating only that children should have access to outdoor activities on a daily basis. However, no further details are provided regarding the proportion or duration of these activities (eg as is the case in Ireland).

Read: Opinion: One year on from the Prime Time childcare exposé – what have we learned?>

Read: Efforts to improve standards after RTÉ creche investigation “have not been enough”>

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