Press Release

Minister for Children opens St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Association Annual Conference “The Child, Society and the World”

St. Nicholas Montessori College, 16 Adelaide Street, Dun Laoghaire.

Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D., Minister for Children officially opened the Annual Conference of the St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Association, entitled “The Child, Society and the World”, today. The Association is one of the seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations funded under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000 – 2006.

The Minister said that the Association will continue to be funded under the new €575 million National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 – 2010, announced in Budget 2006 which succeeds the EOCP and is under the remit of the new Office of the Minister for Children (OMC). The decision to create a major new five year Investment Programme immediately, rather than wait until the EOCP expired in 2006, is evidence of the Government’s commitment to the continued provision of quality childcare. The Programme aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It will build on the existing EOCP Programme and will incorporate a number of key objectives including the creation of 50,000 additional childcare places, including 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.

In his opening speech, Minister Lenihan emphasised the need to promote social inclusion and cultural awareness and develop appropriate responses in our rapidly evolving, culturally diverse society. He congratulated the St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Association for its contribution to the Early Childcare and Education sector in Ireland.

The Conference aimed to explore values, attitudes and cultures in the Early Years Sector and to encourage Montessori pre-school providers to incorporate a global perspective within their education programmes for pre-school children. Speakers at the conference included Ms. Helen Sholdice, a play therapist; Ms. Ann Haig, an early intervention specialist working for Down Syndrome Ireland; Ms. Asiya Altawash, a founder and teacher in the Muslim National School in Dublin; and Ms. Rachel Harshman, from Tennessee, USA, who presented a paper on Judaism in the pre-school setting.

Minister Lenihan also said the Government had given a clear mandate with ambitious targets for the next five years, not just in terms of additional childcare places, but also in terms of the specific needs for pre-school services, school age childcare and wrap around services for children and parents. To deliver on the targets set, which include the creation of additional trained childcare personnel to ensure that quality services for early childhood care and education are delivered, the OMC plans to develop a new Training Strategy to meet both the existing and future needs. The Minister emphasised his commitment to ensuring that these targets are met in a way which takes account of the specific needs of parents and their children. While meeting these targets will require careful planning and incremental development, Minister Lenihan said he was confident that he has been given the necessary tools and resources to deliver on them over the lifetime of the Programme.