Investing in the early years

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Sir, – We read with interest John FitzGerald’s take on tackling constraints in the Irish economy (“Encouraging more women into the workforce would benefit economy”, Business Opinion, May 11th).

As the largest early-years organisation in Ireland, Early Childhood Ireland agrees wholeheartedly with the author’s assessment that increased investment is badly needed, especially as Ireland has one of the lowest levels of public funding of early-years provision in the European Union.

We would urge caution, however, in having a single focus on increasing maternal participation in the labour market. It’s critical that the best interests of babies and children are front and centre in the minds of policymakers.

In any case, Early Childhood Ireland believes that this goal is not at all incompatible with Dr FitzGerald’s proposition. International research has shown that even when free or low-cost care or education is available, parents who have a choice about returning to work will not readily avail of it unless they believe it is of a good enough standard for their children.

Increasing investment in early years is a win-win for our economy and our society. – Yours, etc,

TERESA HEENEY,

Chief Executive,

Early Childhood Ireland,

Hainault House,

Belgard Square South,

Tallaght,

Dublin 24.

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