The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education

Síolta - Introductory handbook



The term is used inclusively in the Framework to describe the range of adults (parents/guardians, professionals, extended family, etc.) who interact with the child/children. On occasion, specific titles such as practitioner or teacher are used in certain contexts within specific settings.

Care and education

This Framework considers care and education to be interdependent experiences in the life of the young child.


The Framework is concerned with all children between the ages of birth and six years, irrespective of ability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, background, family status, or any other defining term. This is described as a universal approach, and for the Framework means that all children are included in its provisions.

Community involvement

Community involvement, within the Framework, refers to cohesion and links between and among individuals, families, services and agencies within the local community and wider society.

Competent learner

Within the Framework, the child is viewed as having learning skills and capacities from birth. These skills and capacities can be enhanced through her/his interactions with family, peers, adults and the wider world.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The ongoing updating of skills and knowledge that is required for successful professional practice. (DJELR, 2002:36)


This refers to all learning experiences, whether formal or informal, planned or unplanned, which contribute to a child's development. (NCCA, 2004:2)

Developmentally appropriate

Activities are developmentally appropriate when they reflect a child's particular age and stage of development.


Within the context of Síolta, this term is used to describe differences in individuals by virtue of gender, age, skin colour, language, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, religion, race or other background factors such as family structure, economic circumstances, etc.

Early childhood

For the purposes of this Framework, early childhood refers to the period from birth to six years of age.


Equality, in the context of this Framework, is characterised by respect, commitment to partnership and equitable treatment for all children and adults. Specifically in relation to children, it means that all children should be able to gain access to, to participate in and to benefit from early years services on an equal basis, "...irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status." (UN, 1989:Article 2)


In the context of the Framework, the family is considered in terms of relationship to the child. With reference to the Commission on the Family, the child's connection to the family is on the basis of birth, adoption or placement. The family, as it relates to the child, is characterised "...by its members together assuming responsibility for the care and support of each other, particularly children... and by the sharing of time and resources which promotes intimacy and belongingness." (DSCFA, 1998: 625)


In the context of the NQF, this means that the various aspects of child development and learning are inter-dependent and inter-related.

Identity and belonging

Identity refers to the identifying characteristics, behaviours and understandings which children may have, sometimes uniquely and sometimes shared with others. Shared identities enable children to develop a sense of belonging or a close relationship with or affinity to a particular group. (NCCA, 2004:2)


Interactions, in the context of the Framework, refers to the exchanges (verbal, non-verbal, physical, planned, spontaneous, etc.), which take place at any stage during the daily routine between all those (children and adults) present in the setting.

Key worker

A key worker is the adult designated as the primary carer, providing continuity and security of attachment for the child.


The term parent includes all parent(s)/guardian(s) of the child.


In the context of the NQF, this means interacting with another individual or individuals (adult or child) with regard and respect for the rights of the other(s), recognising their different, but complementary, roles.


Pedagogy, in the context of the NQF, refers to a holistic approach to child learning and development which embraces both care and education.


In the context of the NQF, a philosophy is an expression of the values and principles underpinning the work in the ECCE setting.


Play, in the context of the NQF, encompasses all activities and opportunities for engaging with the environment (both materials and people), which extend the child's learning, development and creative potential.


For the purpose of the NQF, policies are agreed written statements that determine practice in any given Standard area.


In the context of the NQF, the term practitioner is used generically to mean any adult working in a paid capacity in an ECCE setting.


A procedure is an agreed practice relating to specific activities that take place on a regular, ongoing and foreseeable basis in all settings, e.g., going outdoors.


The term process, in the context of the NQF, relates to the constant and continuous nature of the interactions taking place throughout the setting on a daily basis. These are not necessarily planned but may take place in the context of agreed policies, e.g., informal meetings with parents.


An award which is conferred, granted or given by an awarding body and which records that a learner has acquired a standard of knowledge, skill or competence (NQAI, 2005).

Reflective practice

This refers to a style of working in an ECCE setting that involves regular and rigorous review of practice through reflection.


The range of places in which ECCE services for children aged birth to six are operated, including crèches, nurseries, playgroups, the infant classes of primary schools, childminders and Montessori schools.

Special needs

Children with special needs in the context of the NQF are, "...those whose disabilities and/or circumstances prevent or hinder them from benefiting adequately from the education which is normally provided for pupils of the same age, or for whom the education which is generally provided in the classroom is not sufficiently challenging." (Department of Education, 1993:18)


In the context of the NQF, stakeholders are those individuals, groups, organisations, etc., with an involvement or interest in early childhood care and education.


Transitions refer to the movement/transfer of a child/children into, within and from a situation or setting.


Well-being refers to all aspects of the physical, emotional, moral, and spiritual health and well-being of the child, which are essential foundations for early and all subsequent learning. (NCCA, 2004:3)

Whole-child perspective

The National Quality Framework adopts a whole child perspective consistent with the National Children's Strategy. (DHC, 2000:24)

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