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Better Start Quality Development Service

Better Start Quality Development Service is an additional resource to support and drive quality improvement. It provides a highly skilled and experienced Early Years Specialist team to work directly in a mentoring capacity with early years services, complementing and adding to other quality resources such as training, continuing professional development programmes, networking, cluster-type support groups and individual or team-based development work provided by the City and County Childcare Committees and the Voluntary Childcare Organisations. 

The Importance of quality in Early Learning and Care (ELC) Services
  • High quality ELC settings play an important role in promoting children’s well-being, supporting them in their development as confident and competent learners and working in partnership with parents to enable our youngest children to reach their full potential.
    It is recognised that high quality is essential in providing the best experiences and outcomes for children. Research nationally and internationally has helped build our knowledge of why high quality services are important for children. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, has drawn from national and international research on quality to develop two quality frameworks to support quality in ELC services in Ireland. The quality frameworks are:
    • Síolta, The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (2006) was developed to support early childhood practitioners and educators in delivering high quality services to children. It is designed to define, assess and support the improvement of quality across all aspects of practice in early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings for children aged birth to six years which is inclusive of (full day care, Preschools, childminders and Infant Classes). Detailed information on Siolta can be found at www.siolta.ie
    • Aistear, The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (2009) is the curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. It provides information for adults to help them plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences, so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others. Information on Aistear can be found at www.ncca.ie 
Aistear Síolta Practice Guide

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has further developed both Síolta and Aistear quality frameworks into a Practice Guide for ELC practitioners to aid them to continuously develop quality in their services. For further details, please see: www.aistearsiolta.ie


Early Years Specialists are qualified (Level 8/9) early childhood professionals with a wealth of practice experience. They have a thorough grounding in evidence-based best practice, mentoring and facilitation. Early Years Specialists are Garda Vetted and receive on going professional support and supervision. They have experience of implementing quality frameworks (Síolta and Aistear) in a range of settings and across age groups – birth to 6 years and can offer information, guidance and "tried and tested" solutions which can build on the knowledge and experience of practitioners to enhance the quality of your service to children.

The Quality Development Service operates on a national, rather than regional or county basis. Requests for the service come directly to Better Start from the City and County Childcare Committees. All requests for the service are processed centrally. Early Years Specialists will be allocated to the ELC services on the basis of availability, skills and experience as far as possible matching the service profile. 


Current criteria to access the Quality Development Service:
(1) Full day-care services (birth – 6 years) catering for a minimum of 40 children on a full day-care basis
(2) Services catering for 20 full and/or part-time children with at least 40 children overall
(3) Group or chain providers with services under the same ownership
(4) Sessional services for children with at least 40 children in total
(5) Service Providers that have completed the 5 Aistear and Play workshops.
Priority Request:
We also retain flexibility to respond to requests from services for support in exceptional circumstances. Priority requests could include one or a combination of the following circumstances:
          Inspection issues or Inspection issues relevant to quality development
          Access to quality support has been very limited
          A combination of factors such as location of service, high levels of disadvantage, rural isolation or the needs/profile of children
          Significant staff turnover
There may be additional reasons that you or your local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC) would like to put forward to make a case for your service to be given special consideration for the allocation of support of an Early Years Specialist. These will be considered on a case by case basis.


Please see our Steps to Quality Development Infographic