25 Apr 2006

NICCY today welcomed steps Government is taking to meet the needs of Northern Ireland’s pre-school children - after calling for improvements to services for the youngest children.

Acting Commissioner, Barney McNeany, said Education Minister, Angela Smith’s commitment to improving early years provision was an important development in the lives of the Northern Ireland’s under-5s.

“Because the early years of a child’s life are so important we must get it right,” he said. “I hope that today’s announcement means there will now be a concerted push to improve, develop and enhance children’s early years.”

Mr McNeany said NICCY has been consistently calling for more co-ordination in early years’ policy, and has advised Government on the need for the right services at the right age for children under 5.

“Research unveiled today shows how important pre-school provision is to children’s development,” he said. “We at NICCY will now examine closely the Department of Education’s plans.

“We know that the Secretary of State said there would be more than £10million devoted to Early Years projects over the next two years, but there are many questions we still need answered.

“For example, is there a timetable to bring Northern Ireland into line with developments in England and Wales, and what is being done to make sure there isn't a piecemeal approach.

Mr McNeany said NICCY will continue to press for a timetable for implementing developments to make sure that considerable progress can be made before children start pre-school in September.

Notes for Editors

  • NICCY press release from November 2005, describing Early Years provision as a ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ can be found here
  • Keynote NICCY speech on Early Years strategy can be found here including references to specific articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which can be applied to early years provision.
  • NICCY’s welcome for the Children and Young People funding package can be found here
  • You can find out more information here on the web site on the work of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People