Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Inquiry: Education funding in Northern Ireland

Employers For Childcare has provided written evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Inquiry into education funding in Northern Ireland. The main aim of the Inquiry is to examine whether the level of funding allocated to education in the Northern Ireland Budget is sufficient to meet the challenges facing the sector. It will also review priorities for allocation of funds by the Department of Education.

Our response highlights the importance of early intervention in securing the best possible educational outcomes for children and young people. We believe that childcare has a key role to play in this. Currently, childcare and education are viewed as two distinct policy areas. However, investing in provision which delivers quality childcare in conjunction with early learning opportunities can secure the best educational outcomes for children and young people. In making recommendations on the allocation of funding, the Inquiry can recognise the value of connecting early education and childcare in Northern Ireland, and ensuring this is affordable and accessible for families.

There is important learning from developments in other parts of the UK where eligible families can access 15 or 30 hours of free early years education, also referred to as ‘childcare’. These hours can be delivered by all settings currently providing childcare and early years education, including nursery and primary schools and, in accordance with Department of Education guidance, all funded provision delivers the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.

Formal evidence sessions are expected to take place when Parliament returns in the Autumn. We will share our response once the inquiry has published submissions online. Further information is available on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee website.