Childcare Practitioners – a valued role

“The role is now given the: recognition it deserves and commands respect as being key to supporting and fostering children’s natural curiosity and lover of learning.” 

The role childcare practitioners play in a child’s life often creates a lifetime of happy and fond memories. These formative years are a key time in a child’s life and are so important to a young child’s development and set the foundations for future learning and development. 

For many children this can be their first experience of being cared for outside the home and family and the learning and developmental opportunities can be very different to those at home. The focus is on supporting the child’s emotional development, social skills, self-regulation, expressive and receptive language skills – all of which is done through play, and positive social interactions between children and the adults in their lives. 

It is important that childcare practitioners understand the value in what they do. Over the last 20 years this role has changed and evolved as the perception of childcare practitioners was often undervalued in many respects. 

However, through further education, professionalisation of the role, best practice approaches and mentoring in staff, along with continuous investment in the sector the perception of the childcare sector as a whole has changed and is continuing to evolve. The role is now given the: recognition it deserves and commands respect as being key to supporting and fostering children’s natural curiosity and lover of learning. 

First 5 is the Government’s strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families. Part of this plan is to invest and develop the Early Learning and Care system with significant investment in staff development and professionalisation along with a range of initiatives to support quality development in the sector which includes for example: 

• the integration of curriculum programmes such as Aistear across primary school which children are first introduced to in preschool

• programmes like the national quality framework Síolta 

• Siolta Awards which gives acknowledgement and recognition to the childcare teams 

• Inclusion programmes – pilot programmes that were put in place to support young children for speech and language and occupational therapy that are in place across some childcare facilities

Considering your career, promotion and development 

There are many different types of childcare settings out there – some community based, sessional care and others that offer fulltime care. Childcare providers are encouraged as employers to breathe life into their teams and encourage them to see their role more than just a job. It is a vocation and a and it is important that society acknowledges the importance that they play in the lives of our youngest citizens. 

“In Giraffe Childcare, we truly value our team” says Tom Cannon, HR Manager at Giraffe Childcare, “we always encourage our employees at interview stage to take into consideration what they envision their career to look like. What they want to achieve for themselves and how the organisation can support them to achieve it.”

Ensuring that the organisation that you work with matches your core values is essential in helping you grow professionally as well as personally. The role of childcare practitioner can lead you into many different avenues. With the right supports, foresight and open relationship with your employer there is always opportunity to grow. 

In Giraffe Childcare we have seen many of our team develop into many different roles such as supporting the care teams through special needs roles such as LINC co-ordinators and curriculum co-ordinators or grow into alternative career paths such as centre management, Health and Safety, Human Resources or parent support. 

In Giraffe Childcare, the ethos is to promote and develop from within and to nurture our talented teams. Almost 97% of our management team began their careers in care rooms and others have taken their careers in a different direction such as Centre Support roles like Health and Safety, Human Resources and Recruitment. 

We have a trainee management programme in place to assist employee growth and development and are continuously investing in training and development. We work very closely with our teams to help identify training requirements, nurturing skillsets and development of professional interests. 

However, developing your team goes beyond career opportunities it is about embedding team appreciation, motivation and wellbeing across the organisational culture. Encouraging our parents and children to get involved in these types of activities is important to us in Giraffe. Regularly, we ask parents to complete a staff appreciation card. It is a great opportunity to acknowledge the great work that is carried out across the centres. 

Looking after your team

Annually, Giraffe Childcare host a Love Your Team Week event across all 21 centres. The ethos of this week goes beyond one week of the year. It is felt throughout the organisation every day thereafter but by naming it we keep our team in the forefront of our minds. 

“It is a fantastic week; we celebrate all things staff related,” says Tom. “During this week, we encourage our centre management teams to take time to take stock and review the role each team member plays and the unique value that they bring to their centre, both to the children and to the team. Our teams are fantastic in what they do. Understanding the unique role that they play in a young child’s life is essential when working in this sector.” 

“The personality traits and the emotional intelligence that is required to feel, understand and develop relationships with young children are special. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is not always easy and we as natural carers must be able to do this. However, in order for, this to happen we must feel respected and cared for. That is why these initiatives are so important. “

An environment where children are nurtured and loved, excited and encouraged is where they will flourish most. 

In order for our staff to do this they to must feel valued, their wellbeing must also be looked after and the environment in which they work in must also be a positive, caring nurturing environment where they feel valued and can develop, grow and be excited by what they do!

As with any career, there can be moments of difficulty or stress especially when we are caring for others. It is important that we empower our teams practice selfcare. We again stress the importance of staff wellbeing through monthly staff bulletins and celebrating wellbeing week which coincidence with national wellbeing day. Each of our team members partake in wellbeing training supports that are offered to our childcare care teams and management teams. 

The core ethos in a childcare is to provide care, nurture and grow. That is all we want for the children in our care is to reach their full potential. These same values and ethos are applied to everyone in our Childcare Team. 

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