Throughout the last decade high quality standards of care have become the predominant factor towards change in our profession. Personally, I experienced significant change in my professional career since 2008. Back then I was a manager of a large service catering for 100+ children and managing 20+ practitioners. I was a proud member of a highly successful team and part of a chain of centres who consistently achieved the NCNA Centre of Excellence award. Síolta had recently been introduced, followed by Aistear in 2009. These national policies began to shape the change in standards of care, practice and the work of professional practitioners within the sector.
I had always considered myself as a professional within the sector, however became increasingly aware that Degree level training was crucial to my continued success. My decision to pursue the Degree came at a time when there was unrest and uncertainty within the ECCE sector across Ireland.
In 2013 an investigative journalism exposé aired on nationwide television. What followed was a national scandal that brought scrutiny and condemnation to the ECCE sector. It resulted in an emotional and difficult time, not only for parents, but also for the early year’s practitioners working with young children. Many felt judged, branded and victims of a low level status value placed on those working in the sector as unprofessional, unethical and unsuitable to provide the most basic of care for young children.
While the investigation highlighted inadequacies relating to a small number of ECCE services, it raised awareness of the flaws within the sector and acted as a means for change, forcing ECCE onto the Irish government agenda. This in turn resulted in one of the most significant changes to the sector, the introduction of TUSLA in 2014; a precursor to what would be considered, the most restrictive regulations to be put to the sector yet.
It was at that time; I enrolled in Maynooth University and began my journey as a mature student, in pursuit of my BA Degree. I remember my first night, as I looked around the room I remember feeling envious of the younger girls. Why didn’t I do this year’s ago? In truth, it took me years to experience the highs and lows of working in early years to understand the important role we play. At that time I felt that I owed it to myself, my team, the children and families to continue with my own professional development. I also owed it to my own two children, to show them life has many possibilities with many opportunities and ways in which to reach them. I was a full time mum with a full time career, and there I was about to get my degree.
Participating in the degree I felt privileged to be surrounded by an enthusiastic group of professionals on the same journey, all of us together striving for improved standards and improved practice. Not just within our own learning but more importantly to enhance practice within our service sharing newly acquired skills, knowledge and understanding with peers and colleagues. It was an exciting time. It was a time when we all “Wore Red” as a stance together to value our profession. We rallied together in force, for government investment to provide for increased funding for improved salaries for practitioners. Where there were demands for a professional workforce, our sector rallied for professional salaries. And, after two years of campaigning, Minister Zappone recently announced that the government has agreed to the need for improved salaries within the sector.
On the 8th of September 2017, after 3 years of working full time and studying part time I graduated from Maynooth with a BA Degree. Graduation didn’t feel like the end of a chapter, instead it felt like a new beginning. Achieving my degree paved the way forward, in a sector that I was proud of, and one where I will remain and progress and continue to work towards improved standards. My current role of Co-Ordinator continues to give me the opportunity to strive for change to the early year’s sector. I am very proud of the career path that I have chosen and will continue my journey to make a difference.
The early years sector continues to evolve, and has become increasingly versatile. The use of social media and the community of practice offered by engaging with practitioners online have offered new ways to connect with other professionals in our field. The MECPI community has identified the one thing we all have in common; passion, commitment, dedication, and a determination to overcome the challenges that can sometimes feel overwhelming in a tightly regulated sector.
Therese Tutty graduated with a BA from Maynooth University in 2017. She is currently the Coordinator with Sonas Group Busy Kids; a company which operates Sonas Nursing Homes and Busy Kids Childcare across Ireland.
As the Coordinator Therese supports the management and leadership of Busy Kids services in Dublin, Athlone and Limerick. Prior to that Therese worked with Bright Horizons for 17 years and was the Regional Manager until the company merged with another provider in 2017.