Monday, June 29, 2020

By Elizabeth Lee

THE smooth reopening of the early years sector has been a testament to childcare providers and their strong relationships with parents. That’s according to Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the sector, whose members are reopening their doors today for the first time since March.

Early Childhood Ireland said they believe the majority of the 1,800 crèches which normally operate over the summer months will reopen from today, with most expecting to be working at 50% capacity initially. A further 2,800 centres are expected to reopen in September, if it is financially viable for them to do so.

New health and safety measures introduced in response to the threat of Covid-19 will see crèches operating in pods to keep groups separated, parents making handovers outside the crèche buildings and an increased emphasis on outdoor play, wherever possible.

Teresa Heeney, chief executive of Early Childhood Ireland, said: “The government funding package, which offered staffing, operational and capital supports, has been critical to ensuring that childcare providers across Ireland can reopen safely and sustainably.

“We believe the public health information and the comprehensive resources published by the Department of Children have contributed to providers having the confidence and the ability to reopen safely after lockdown. This, in turn, has reassured parents.

“That said, it is vital that the Department of Children continues to monitor the reopening phase to ensure that the new methods introduced are sufficient to protect children and staff. The department will also need to scrutinise the number of children returning, any consequent funding shortfall and the subsequent impact on sustainability. This will be vital to safeguard the full return of childcare services, which operate in conjunction with the traditional school year from the end of August and beyond.”

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