PROTEST: Killarney preschool owners and operators are fighting for professional recognition and more financial support. Pictured at the front are: Jacqui O’Reilly of Happy Hearts, Patricia Quigley of Scallywags and Rosemary Falvey of Bellview Woods Childcare. Photo: Grigoriy Geniyevskiy
By Michelle Crean and Sean Moriarty
Owners of several busy preschools in Killarney and surrounds are to take part in a national protest next month.
The providers, who say they are not receiving a professional wage for all the extra Government work that they do, will join with others from across the country to protest in Dublin on Wednesday, February 5.
Those travelling to protest include; Bellview Woods Childcare, Scallywags, Little Explorers, Happy Hearts Montessori, Ballyspillane Family Resource Centre, Sliabh Luachra Montessori, Maggie’s Montessori, Raheen Montessori Playgroup, Fossa Preschool, Creative Kids Preschool, Naíonra Faithleann, Anabla Preschool, Danú Chiuldcare Rathmore, and Puffins in Firies.
They are calling on the Government to provide adequate funding as well as cut the six separate inspections per year down to one.
Local operators, like all nationally, are also expected to adhere to Department of Education regulations – despite not being officially recognised by the State’s education body. The local childcare facilities are also regulated by Tulsa, DCYA, HSE, Pobal, and other Government agencies.
Although the centres are in receipt of a weekly grant of around €64 per child, which boils down to €4.68 per child per hour in their care, professionals are obliged to carry out additional paperwork like child assessments and they are not getting paid for this additional work. Terms of the grant mean they are not allowed charge additional fees to parents to offset rising costs.
“The current situation is not sustainable,” Rosemary Falvey, Manager of Bellview Woods Childcare in Ballydowney, told the Killarney Advertiser.
Rising costs, particularly insurance which has risen by 300 percent in the last year and is only available through one provider, means that the available grant goes nowhere near covering operating costs at child care centres.
“We want recognition of our profession,” said Patricia Quigley of Scallywags Preschool in Muckross.
Highly qualified staff do not receive wages outside of school term-time unlike teachers in primary and post-primary schools.
“If we are good enough to be regulated by the Department of Education and are good enough to meet their standards, then we are good enough to receive Department of Education wages and pay,” said Sharon O’Riordan of Little Explorers, which is based at Two-Mile School near Ballyhar.
Parents locally are in support of the protest march according to several pre-school operators The Killarney Advertiser spoke to.