Updating Aistear – Ireland’s early childhood curriculum framework 




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Lorraine Farrell

National Aistear Development Officer, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Lorraine has worked in early childhood education for almost 20 years. She has worked in a variety of areas including practice, management, training, and mentoring. More recently, Lorraine has held the position of National Aistear Development Officer with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). Before moving into mentoring and subsequently curriculum development, she managed her own award-winning early childhood practice for 10 years. In her current work, Lorraine collaborates with a variety of government departments and agencies, along with early childhood practitioners and academics, to develop resources to support high-quality practice in early childhood settings across Ireland. Lorraine has a BA in Early Childhood Education and Care and an MA in Leadership and Advocacy in the Early Years.


Jacqueline Fallon

Director Curriculum and Assessment, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Jacqueline initially worked as a primary teacher, primarily with children aged 3 to 6. Her first involvement in curriculum development was in the mid-1990s with the development of the Early Start Curriculum Guidelines used in Department of Education pre-schools.  She then worked as Development Officer in the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education, co-authoring Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (CECDE, 2006). She was a member of the NCCA Board for Early Childhood and Primary throughout the development of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009). Subsequently, she lectured on Early Childhood Education in initial teacher education, including providing CPD for teachers on play pedagogy. She completed a PhD at Trinity College Dublin and her doctoral research focused on teachers’ beliefs about play pedagogy. Currently, she is a Director of Curriculum and Assessment with NCCA, leading teams and projects in the Early Childhood and Primary areas, including updating Aistear.


Mary Daly

Education Officer, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Mary Daly has a BA in Early Childhood Studies from University College Cork. In 2002, she completed her PhD with a focus on the emotional, social, moral, and spiritual development of the young child. In 2004, she published a book based on her findings.

Mary has worked in the area of early childhood care and education in Ireland for more than 20 years. She has been employed as an Education Officer with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for a number of years. In this role, Mary has contributed to the development of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009); the Aistear Toolkit and the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (online resources to support good curriculum practice); and the Mo Scéal Reporting Templates, which help support children’s transition from pre-school to primary school. In her current work, Mary is part of a team whose focus is on updating Aistear involving research and consultation with key stakeholders, including children.


Updating Aistear – Ireland’s early childhood curriculum framework

Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009) provides information for adults on planning for and providing high-quality, enjoyable and challenging experiences so that all children from birth to six years can grow and develop fully within loving relationships. This article will outline the NCCA’s rationale and plans for updating Aistear to ensure that it continues to support high-quality curriculum experiences for babies, toddlers and young children.

The article begins with an outline of governance in the early childhood sector in Ireland, followed by details of the contents of Aistear with an outline of its contribution to quality development. It continues with the rationale for updating Aistear, including the main changes that have taken place since its publication in terms of national developments, policies and strategies related to early childhood. Critically, the focus of the update will be on changes in children’s lived experiences, including those during the COVID pandemic. The article will conclude with the timeline for finalising Aistear in its updated form.

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