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Members of the Education Council and the Early Childhood Care and Education Unit

I am a passionate advocate (...) so I was delighted to participate.

Ms. Reina Jefferson, EC Member and President of ECA.

Published 12th June 2014, 7:12pm

Coordinated by the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Unit of the Ministry of Education, a range of Government agencies are collaborating to implement the registration and re-registration of early childhood centres under the new Education Council Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education Centres (2013).

These new processes and criteria are part of the Education Council Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education Centres (2013), ratified by Education Council in August 2013. The Guidelines require a multi-agency approach, to ensure that the standards for the safety and well-being of the children in early childhood centres are upheld.

To date, these agencies comprise:

• Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Unit

• Department of Environmental Health (DEH)

• Fire Services

• Department of Children and Family Services(DCFS)

• Planning Department

• Department of Education Services (DES)

• Trade and Business Licence

According to Ministry officials, the Guidelines build on previous regulatory work by early childhood professionals, inclusive of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Guidelines and international best practice, as well as the pioneering work of Mrs. Marjorie Beckles. Prior to these Guidelines being developed, ECCE centres were governed under guidelines which were published in 2002.

At this time, the first group of early childhood centres have been presented to the Education Council for re-registration under the Education Council Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education Centres (2013):

• Sir John A Cumber Primary

• Savannah Primary

• Edna Moyle Primary School

• Creek Primary School

• West End Primary

• St George’s Pre-School

This group included some of the Government Reception programmes. Though not required by law, the Government programmes are among the first to be reviewed under the Guidelines. “We felt it was important to test the new registration process in this way,” explained Ms. Carol Bennett, Senior Policy Advisor and Manager for Early Childhood Care and Education. “We also see it as an important quality assurance measure. By having Reception classes participate in the review process, we can ensure consistency and compliance with the standards being applied to private centres”.

The various agencies all have their roles in the registration and re-registration process and their findings are collated by the ECCE Unit within the Ministry of Education, which then presents the information to the Education Council for their decision regarding the eligibility for each centre’s registration or re-registration. The Education Council Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education Centres (2013) include relevant legal requirements from the various agencies such as Planning, DEH and Fire Services.

According to Ms Carol Bennett, all early childhood care and education centres have been put on a schedule for re-registration according to the expiration date of their Trade and Business Licence.

“There is also a period prior to the inspections where the early childhood centre can receive additional support to identify and rectify any issues that may hinder re-registration,” Ms. Tunisia Barnes, Seconded Early Childhood Care and Education Officer, stated.

The centres are evaluated according to the criteria set out in the Education Council Guidelines for registration (for a new centre) and re-registration (for an existing centre), under the following areas:

• Care and Education Provision

• Premises and Facilities

• Health and Safety

• Leadership and Management

The ECCE Unit will continue with the re-registration schedule throughout the next three quarters with the goal of presenting all early childhood centres to the Education Council before the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Ongoing support will continue in all ECCE centres in the endeavour to improve standards and provision.

Education Council Member and President of the Early Childhood Association, Ms Reina Jefferson, says that she welcomes the new guidelines and registration process. “I am a long-standing and passionate advocate for quality early childhood care and education, so I was delighted to participate in the review and approval of the new Guidelines. I am encouraged to see them being applied to ensure centres meet certain basic standards, not just for registration but across the Board, and to enable Education Council to mandate action where serious concerns arise. This is a huge step in the right direction,” Ms Jefferson said.

Ms Bennett explained that the Guidelines also play an important role in supporting early childhood care and education (ECCE) centre/school owners and operators. The Guidelines support them to be knowledgeable of and responsible for improving their centres to meet the needs of the children in their care. “We know the range in quality of our centres is too wide. The information from the various agencies involved in the registration and re-registration processes is compiled in the Guidelines so that all stakeholders can be aware of standards and expectations for the centres. Owners and managers of the ECCE centres may use the sample forms and policies in the document as templates for developing the requirements for their centres. This document is a valuable tool for existing centre owners and prospective owners”.

The Guidelines may be accessed on the Ministry of Education’s website by following the “Education” link, and on to the “Early Childhood” page.