A Good Start – Professionalising Early Years Services

Seminar presentations

Key note speaker – Professor Helen Penn, Professor Emerita of Early Childhood, University of East London (UEL)

Panel discussion – building momentum for professionalisation, facilitated by David Coleman.

Bernie McNally – Assistant Secretary, Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Tom Healy – Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute

Marian Quinn – Chairperson, Association of Childhood Professionals (no presentation)

Teresa Heeney – Chief Executive Officer, Early Childhood Ireland

Panel discussion – Identifying obstacles and solutions, facilitated by Orlaith Carmody.

June Tinsley – Director and Head of Advocacy, Barnardos

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (no presentation)

Dr. Emer Ring – Head of Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies, Mary Immaculate College

Orla O’Connor – Director, National Women’s Council of Ireland (no presentation)

Ciairin De Buis – Chief Executive Officer,  Start Strong


The importance of early years to the achievement of personal development and human potential hasn’t always been sufficiently appreciated. And for years there has been no link between the benefits flowing from investment in early years and the social and economic costs associated with a failure to do so. This is beginning to change.

There has been some investment by government in services for early years partly in response to population growth. But the system of early childhood care and education is still operating on a shoestring with a complex mix of services. This makes regulation challenging and the task of professionalising the workforce somewhat unusual.

IMPACT has a long and proud record of successfully assisting many groups to gain professional recognition and improved pay and conditions of employment. Early childhood care and education is a public service in the sense that it is a public good.

But well over 70% of the provision is in the private sector. Earnings are poor and many of the providers themselves are barely in receipt of a living wage. This is why IMPACT believes that the entire workforce, including small business owners, must unite to campaign for professionalisation.

This conference heard internationally renowned authority Professor Helen Penn deliver the keynote address on the importance of professionalisation. A panel of influential contributors discussed how momentum towards professionalisation of the sector can be built and a further group of selected experts debated the practical steps that need to be taken to overcome obstacles in the way.

You can download the full programme HERE