Tusla Must be Held to Account

Statement from Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland –

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency agency charged with inspection of preschools, must be held to account for too few inspectors, too few inspections and too little progress in delivering a robust, consistent and regular inspection process.

This is according to Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland who was reacting to front page headlines in the media today regarding the inconsistent preschool inspection process in Ireland.

She said that:

“Despite the evidence that the preschool inspection process is clearly fractured, a new inspection regime by the Department of Education is about to be introduced to this sector. It just doesn’t make sense in the face of the history of underinvestment in this sector.

“A key concern, which is only accentuated by media coverage today, is whether Tusla, which is first and foremost a child protection agency, is the agency that should be charged with preschool inspection.  In fact, Tusla CEO Gordon Jeyes is on the record saying just that.

“In particular, the lack of progress in terms of the childcare registration system, the revised preschool regulations, and the publication of quality standards is unacceptable and we need clear action and deadlines to make this happen. Registration, revised regulations and quality standards were all promised by then Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald as part of the 8 point Quality Agenda following RTE Primetime’s ‘Breach of Trust’ programme. We are still waiting for movement on these developments.

“Some progress has been made on the introduction of mentoring and the provision of a fund to support the upskilling of staff in the sector, and we welcome the announcement of the development of an ICT (information communications technology) system for the preschool inspection process, which we look forward to discussing with Tusla.

“However, the investment is too low and the negative headlines again regarding inspections are alarming for parents and de-motivating for those working in the sector.

“This sector can be characterized by underinvestment and over inspection, with Tusla, the Department of Education and Pobal all  involved. Proper inspection is essential, is in everyone’s interest, and something we have for a long time been calling for, on behalf of our 3,500 members running preschools and crèches supporting over 100,000 children nationwide.

“Unfortunately, our inconsistent inspection process is failing children, parents and the sector today.  A consistent, equitable, national system of inspection of early childhood education is what is required, and it should be a sure thing, not a lottery system depending on location. We must address this area with the priority and investment needed. An effective inspection process provides peace of mind for parents, a stamp of approval for the early childhood educators delivering a quality experience for children and a wakeup call for those who aren’t, with a view to raising standards and quality across the board.”