Introduction - What is Síolta?

The National Quality Framework, known as Síolta, is a set of national quality standards for early childhood education. Síolta is a quality assurance programme that enhances the quality of early childhood experiences for children aged from birth to six years. The Department of Education and Skills, the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) developed Síolta in consultation with the early year’s sector.

The Síolta Framework was published in 2006, following a three-year developmental process, which involved consultation with more than fifty diverse organisations. These organisations represented childcare workers, teachers, policy makers, parents, researchers and other interested parties.

Síolta has been designed to define, assess and support the improvement of quality across all areas of practice in early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings where children from birth to six years are present.

These settings include:

  • Full and Part-time Day-care
  • Childminding
  • Sessional services
  • Infant classes in primary schools

Since December 2008, the Early Years Education Policy Unit (EYEPU) established by the Department of Education and Skills and co-located currently in the Department for Children and Youth Affairs has been responsible for the implementation of Síolta.

Core Elements of Síolta

Síolta encompasses three distinct but interrelated elements: Principles >>, Standards >> and Components of Quality. The twelve Principles provide the overall vision of the framework while the sixteen Standards and seventy-five Components allow for the practical application of this vision across all areas of ECCE practice. The components of Quality are further explained by a set of Signposts for Reflection and “Think-abouts” that are intended to support practitioners in early childhood education and care settings to become aware of, and critical of their practice. These core elements of Síolta are set out in detail in each of the Síolta manuals.

NCN’s work to support the implementation of Síolta

In 2009, the Early Years Education Policy Unit and the Childcare Directorate requested that NCN formerly Border Counties Childcare Network, engage with other Voluntary Childcare Organisations to pilot the implementation of the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP) tool and processes.

In providing a comprehensive programme of work to advance the Síolta quality agenda, NCN has provided on-site mentoring support and cluster group training to staff from twelve services willing to participate in the QAP, with two of these services receiving Síolta Validation in 2012, six working towards validation in 2014 and four in 2015. In addition, NCN has devised and delivered a diverse range of training programmes, customised to meet the needs of the sector. These include the NCN’s Síolta Development Programme of Awareness Raising Seminars and Workshops as well as the Curriculum Development and Implementation Programme. These programmes have been delivered to many staff employed in both crèche and sessional pre-school services, coming together in cluster groups, in counties Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal. We have also developed and disseminated a broad range of learning materials and publications, devised and delivered both QQI Level 5 and Level 6 training which incorporated Síolta and Aistear, and provided many additional CPD opportunities to build the capacity of the early childhood workforce. Throughout all of this activity, we have continuously blended the Síolta and Aistear Frameworks so that those benefitting from our work will be guided by the content of both frameworks and integrate them into their everyday practice.

Síolta Manuals and other resources

The user manuals contain the core elements of Síolta. Each manual focuses on one of the following settings:

Full and Part-time Day-care >>

Sessional Services >>

Infant Classes >>

Childminding >>

Síolta Research Digests >>

Other useful resources

Summary of the Baseline Report on the Interim Evaluation of NEYAI and Siolta. (July 2013) >>

Evaluation of Initial Implementation of Síolta Final Report. Goodbody Economics (2011) >>

Final Handbook – Síolta (2006) >>

For additional information see Supporting Early Childhood Services Achieve Síolta Standards >>