Voice Community Official Response: Review of Statutory Admissions Criteria in Northern Ireland Early Years settings
Background: This consultation relates to the statutory criterion that all funded pre-school education providers are required to use as part of the pre-school admissions process. It seeks views on proposals to extend the definition of “children from socially disadvantaged circumstances” to include a wider group of children. It also seeks views on the proposal to standardise the length of pre-school education sessions and the impact that this may have on the admissions process in future. These views will help to inform policy development and a substantive consultation on this issue in due course.
Summary: Voice Community has long been a proponent of equality. This does not mean everyone being treated equally, but for everyone to be given equality of opportunity. Statutory priority admission is important because it ensures that those that are most in need of education get it.
- There is significant evidence from across the UK, that investment in Early Years – both financial and in high-trained staff, is more cost-effective than money spent on interventions later, however there are questions around capacity that must be considered.
- It is important that there are protections in place to ensure that provision remains located where it is needed so that providers do not relocate to areas of affluence.
- As a union who support members across the education spectrum we know how important it is for employees to be supported in the workplace and we woud encourage the DE to consider mandating continuing professional development and to encourage settings to consider the careers they are offering to ensure the employ and retain high-quality staff.
- Wider availability of provision to all those in need will increase demand. To meet this demand properly qualified and highly trained staff who are adequately remunerated will be needed and this will stimulate a sector which feels forgotten and unloved by government.