Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


School of Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Judith Butler

Second Advisor

Prof Margaret Linehan


The purpose of this study is to explore the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme in Ireland and a child’s transition from a pre-school setting to the formal primary school environment, from the perspective of parents, pre-school practitioners, primary school teachers and childcare organisations. The ECCE initiative was introduced in January 2010 for all children between the ages of 3 years and 3 months and 4 years and 6 months, offering them one year of free pre-school (50/38 weeks) prior to commencing primary school. This research identifies the need to study a child’s transition into formal schooling, as research in this topic is limited in Ireland. The research also investigates how the policies and practices of the ECCE can actively help children, make a seamless transition to formal education. The transition from one educational setting to another must be effectively managed (Johansson, 2007; Fabian and Dunlop, 2002). This is an issue that practitioners in ECCE settings, as well as primary school teachers in Junior Infant classes, regularly encounter. Successful transitions entail supporting all children in becoming resilient, self-assured and capable, and can be a critical factor in determining the child’s future at school. This study locates the transition from the ECCE setting to primary school in the context of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) bio-ecological system theory. Primary research consisted of 60 in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted with 18 parents, 17 pre-school practitioners, 15 primary school teachers and members of 8 childcare organisations. The support offered by these significant others can promote continuity of care and education for the children, making the whole process less distressing and confusing (Allen and Butler, 2014; O’Connor, 2013; CECDE, 2007). The findings from this study reveal that the transition process to primary school is a collaborative process and that all relevant stakeholders should liaise and communicate with each other to assist the child’s smooth passage into formal schooling. O’Kane’s (2007) research provided information on the transition from preschool to formal schooling from an Irish context. This current research builds on O’Kane’s (2007) work, by identifying stakeholder perspectives on the transition process and the ECCE scheme while also exploring the flaws and gaps in the delivery of the ECCE scheme and its impact on the child’s transition. The result of this study reveal that practitioners are not very familiar with Siolta Standard 13, Transition. The results also suggest that the ECCE age range is too short and confined, compared to the primary school starting age, and that the higher capitation fee is unrealistic. The ECCE scheme was, however, welcomed by all Early Years’ practitioners as a major step towards sustainability, ensuring equality of access for all children, promoting quality provision, and for recognising qualifications and furthering the professionalisation of the sector.

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