Supporting disadvantaged children, improving quality and enhancing collaboration in childcare

Supporting disadvantaged children, improving quality and enhancing collaboration in childcare

Developing a new funding model in Ireland

Frontier Economics is providing research support to an international Expert Group tasked with developing proposals for a new Funding Model for Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) in Ireland.

Convened by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), the international Expert Group forms part of the First 5 Strategy to improve outcomes for children in Ireland from birth to age five.

The Frontier team, led by Dr Gillian Paull, Cavin Wilson, Dr Katharine Lauderdale and Thomas Badger, are pleased to announce the publication of our second series of research papers in support of the Expert Group. This follows on from the publication of our first series in November 2020.

This research covered a range of questions, including:

  • Supporting disadvantaged children: Identifying approaches for improving the quality of ELC and SAC provision for disadvantaged children, and reviewing the evidence on how well these approaches work in practice.
  • Improving quality: Summarising features of high-quality ELC and SAC provision, including both structural and process aspects, in order to identify the features of quality that are amenable to being addressed through a funding model.
  • Encouraging collaboration: Reviewing international examples of Shared Delivery Models for ELC and SAC services, including the benefits, facilitators and barriers to this type of collaboration and their effectiveness.

Some of our key findings include:

  • In the Irish context, a combination of additional funding and grants is likely to be most appropriate to address some disadvantage characteristics
  • The prevalence of private-sector provision in Ireland implies that funding settings to hire additional staff is likely to be more appropriate than the direct provision of staff.
  • Policies to support ELC and SAC quality through funding have addressed a range of quality elements: workforce skills, working conditions, curriculum implementation, collaboration between settings, and devolving quality targets to lower levels of government/administration.
  • Staff qualification levels, Continuing Professional Development or training, and pay levels appear to be the most amenable to being resourced and/or required through funding models.
  • Shared delivery was found to be a rare occurrence, despite the benefits being widely listed. Of these benefits, the greatest impact was found on auxiliary supporting activities rather than the primary activity of day-to-day frontline care and education.
  • Promoting collaboration between settings may be able to achieve more for the quality of provision than for substantially reducing costs.

A number of other outputs from Frontier are currently underway as part of the research partnership.