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Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important to Irish employees but most particularly to working parents. The birth of a baby is a hugely pivotal time in life and most parents will want to avail of as much time off work as possible, to spend with their precious new arrival.

In response to this need, the Government introduced statutory leave for parents of young children which provides employees with full job protection while they focus on caring for their child. This parental leave is separate to maternity & paternity leave.

It is important that new parents are informed about paternal leave in advance, so that they can decide on the best way to utilise it for their family’s needs. For example if a parent decides to take parental leave directly after their maternity leave, then they will want to postpone their child’s start date at crèche until after this period. Likewise if they decide that they want to keep their parental leave for a later stage, then they will need to have childcare in place for when their maternity leave ends.

The following are some of the most common questions that new parents have in relation to parental leave in Ireland.

Is everyone in Ireland entitled to parental leave?

 
Under the Parental Leave Act 1998 (amended by the Parental Leave Amendment Act 2006) parents in Ireland are entitled to take parental leave from their employment to care for their children, provided that they have been in continuous employment with their current employer for more than one year. Adoptive parents and those acting in loco parentis to an eligible child are also eligible to avail of parental leave.

The rules clearly state that parental leave is to be used only for taking care of the respective child and not for any other purpose. In a case that the time off is being used for any other reason, then an employer has the right to cancel the leave.

How long is parental leave in Ireland?

 
Parents who have been in continuous employment for more than one year are entitled to 18 working weeks of unpaid parental leave per child. Parents who have been employed for less than one year will be entitled to pro rata parental leave.

An employee who has more than one child is limited to taking 18 weeks parental leave in a 12 month period but parents of twins or triplets can take more than the standard 18 weeks in a given year.

Does parental leave have to be taken altogether?

 
The 18 weeks leave per child can be taken in one continuous block or they can be taken in two separate periods – however the minimum for a period is 6 weeks. There must also be a gap of at least ten weeks between the two periods.

Another option (if an employer is in agreement) is to separate parental leave into periods of days or even hours across a much longer period. For example a parent may choose to take one day of paternal leave a week for a set period to create a four day working week. This gives parents the opportunity to create a more flexible working arrangement that is conducive to family life.

As of March 2013, parents can request using their parental leave in this way but an employer is not obliged to grant this request. Employees must submit their request in writing six weeks in advance and an employer is obliged to respond within four weeks of receiving it.

Do you get paid for parental leave in Ireland?

 
Ireland is one of only six EU countries where employers are not obliged by law to pay employees on parental leave. Currently parents are entitled to eighteen weeks of unpaid parental leave and are not eligible for any social welfare payments. Despite not being paid during the parental leave period, employees will receive credited PRSI contributions for this period, provided that their employer notifies the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In 2018 the Government announced plans to introduce two weeks of extra paid paternal leave but this is not due to come into effect until late 2019. See more information on this new parental benefit scheme below.

What is the age limit for parental leave in Ireland?

 
Parental leave can be taken in respect of a child up until their 8th birthday. However there are exceptions for children who have been adopted between the age of 6 and 8 and for children with a long term illness or disability.

In addition to this extensions may also be granted to parents who were prevented from taking their parental leave in the normal eight year period, due to illness or other extenuating factors. For more information see www.citizensinformation.ie.

Can parents transfer paternal leave to each other?

 
In Ireland both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave but this cannot be transferred between them. The exception to this is where both parents work for the same employer. For parents who are both employed by the same company, 14 of their weeks may be transferred to the other parent, with their employer’s agreement.

Will parental leave affect my pension?

 
While on unpaid paternal leave, employees are not entitled to continue to accrue pension benefits. However, your service before and after your parental leave must be treated as continuous. In other words members of a pension scheme cannot be treated as having left the scheme following a period of parental leave.

Does parental leave affect other employment rights?

 
Besides the loss or earnings and pension contributions, parental leave has no other effects on your employment rights or benefits. While on parental leave, you are still entitled to the same rights and benefits that you would receive if you were working. For example you can still build up your annual leave while on parental leave and you are also entitled to any public holidays that fall during this period. These accumulated annual leave and public holiday days can be added to your paternal leave or can be taken when you return to work.

What changes were made to paternal leave in Budget 2018?

 
In 2018 the Government announced that they would be providing two extra weeks paid parental leave for each parent while the child is under one year. This measure (called the paternal benefit scheme) will come into effect from November 2019 and it will be paid at the same rate as maternity and paternity leave. Parents will be entitled to take the new paid leave at any point during the child’s first year and can also take this leave together at the same time.

How do I apply for parental leave?

 
To apply for paternal leave in Ireland you must provide written notice to your employer outlining your intention to take parental leave and this should be done six weeks prior to the date that you wish to start.You will also be required to sign a document with your employer four weeks before you begin your leave.

For more information contact:

The Workplace Relations Commission – Information and Customer Service
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Homepage: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/

 

The post Parental Leave in Ireland – What You Need to Know appeared first on Park Academy.

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At Park Academy Childcare we believe in nurturing the whole child and that includes their physical development. We know that nutritious food is so important for growing little bodies and provides children with the fuel they need to learn, run, jump and play. That’s why we employ a talented team of chefs who provide our children with delicious, healthy meals each day. Our chefs are committed to making our menus as varied and nutritious as possible and they also love to share their most popular recipes with our parents, so that they can recreate these favourites at home!

Nutrition is a constantly evolving area and there is always new information about how we can improve our diets and overall health. That’s why Park Academy Childcare have teamed up with up with Nutritionist Julie-Ann Brady to devise new menus for 2019, with a focus on further improving the quality of nutrition that our meals provide. Julie-Ann has been working closely with our Head Chef Rohan for many weeks and the combination of her expertise, with his skills and passion, has resulted in a fantastic range of menus that we are delighted and proud to introduce.

Julie-Ann and Rohan have also calculated the nutritional breakdown for each and every dish on our new menus and this information will be displayed on our menu boards each week for parents to view. In this way we can work together to ensure that children get optimum nutrition to grow and thrive.

Our new menus will be rolled out from February 11th and both Julie-Ann and Chef Rohan will be visiting all of our creches to meet with parents and answer any questions that they may have. This is a great opportunity to get expert nutritional and cookery advice so it is not to be missed! Keep an eye on Facebook for details of when Julie-Ann and Rohan will be attending your crèche and to get more updates on our new menus. Visit Julie-Ann’s website here for more information.

Our Creche Menus – What’s Changed?

With Julie-Ann’s expert guidance, we have ensured that the children’s meals are more nutritionally balanced than ever. Here are a few of the changes that we have made to our creche’s menus…

Low Sugar Breakfasts – In accordance with recent health guidelines for children, we are substituting our breakfast cereals with low sugar Weetabix, homemade muesli and porridge with fruit compote. Starting the day with a low sugar breakfast helps to keep children’s blood sugar even, resulting in sustained energy levels and increased concentration throughout the morning.

More Healthy Fats – On Julie-Ann’s recommendations, we are increasing the amount of essential fatty acids on our menus, particularly those from fish sources. These are hugely important for brain development in children and can contribute to increased concentration, improved memory and positive mental health. They also help to regulate mood & promote more pro-social behaviour in children.

Increased Plant Proteins – Our new menus have an increased amount of vegetables and plant based protein. Introducing plant protein sources has many positive benefits for health since they are higher in fibre than animal protein sources, lower in saturated fat and are also free from additives such as salt & sugar. More vegetables also means more phytocompounds which help support a healthy body and immune system.

New Recipe – Avocado & Black Eyed Bean Enchiladas with Rice

Just one of the many healthy and tasty meals that will feature on our new menus in 2019 – here is Chef Rohan’s recipe for Avocado & Black Bean Enchiladas for you to enjoy!

This dish is easy to make and has a great balance of plant protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, ensuring that both children and adults have the fuel they need for their busy lives!

See the nutritional information for this dish below. This is a sample of the nutritional information that will be available on our creche menu boards each week.

Ingredients – serves 4, (2 adults, 2 children)

Rapeseed oil – 1 tblsp
Ground cumin and coriander
Butternut squash – ½ diced
Onion – 1 diced
Garlic – 3 cloves of garlic
Sweet potato – 1
Avocado – 3
Tomatoes – 2
Wraps – 6
Black eyed beans – 1 tin drained
Cheese grated to top
Rice brown – 2 cups

Method:

  1. Dice the squash, onion, sweet potato and garlic and toss in some rapeseed oil and the spices. Roast in the oven at 180° C for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove and mix through the diced tomatoes, avocados and beans.
  3. Roll the mixture up in the wraps, cover the wraps with cheese and put back in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese melts.
  4. Serve warm with rice.

The post Our New Nutritionist Led Menus…and a Brand New Healthy Family Recipe! appeared first on Park Academy.

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There is extensive, worldwide research to support why the Nature Kindergarten philosophy of education
is one of the most natural and beneficial approaches for a child. Learning through nature offers a truly
holistic educational experience which promotes cognitive and physical development, as well as the
development of social and emotional skills. That’s not to even mention the immensely positive impact
that outdoor education can have on a child’s health & overall sense of well-being.

In this second of a three part blog series, we will highlight the ways in which the Nature Kindergarten
environment benefits a child’s social and emotional development. In an era where mental health issues
are reaching epidemic levels, this is arguably the most important area of development for young children.
Positive mental health will have a big influence on all other aspects of development, from cognitive
ability to physical wellbeing. In a rapidly changing technological world, ‘soft’ skills like communication
and interpersonal skills are predicted to become more important in the workplace, as industry skills will
be constantly changing and evolving.

Read on to hear how The Nature Kindergarten can provide children with these vital social skills and help
their minds to stay healthy and happy…

Teamwork & Cooperation

 
Social skills are an integral part of daily life at Nature Kindergarten, as the children and adults
interact freely with each other throughout the day. The environment is underpinned by a highly democratic
ethos which ensures that the children take ‘ownership’ of the forest and are consulted on any planned
developments to their space. This fosters a sense of responsibility and also a sense of belonging among the
group. In this environment, children quickly learn the value of teamwork and cooperation as they work
together to build a den or help each other out as they attempt new challenges. Whether it’s encouraging a
friend as they climb a tree, or helping them to gather sticks for the fire, the cooperation and respect that
the children have for each other is truly heart-warming.

Freedom to choose their activities promotes regular negotiation, as the children communicate on what they
would like to do together. During group projects they are encouraged to resolve issues themselves and this
teaches them how to compromise and resolve conflict in a functional way. Through this freedom of choice,
the children can also see the impact that their decisions have on others and this develops empathy – a
quality that is hugely valuable for positive interactions with others.

 

Self-confidence & Resilience

 
The Nature Kindergarten environment provides lots of opportunities for young children to physically
challenge themselves – should they choose to. These ‘challenges by choice’ could include attempting
to climb a tree, navigating their way across the unstable wobble boards, or jumping from the play
house. Each time that the children complete these self-directed challenges, they gain a sense of
achievement and so grow in confidence and self-esteem.

By attempting challenges the children also build up resilience, as they learn to pick themselves up
and ‘have a go’ again if they don’t achieve the desired result. The children at Nature Kindergarten
come to naturally understand that perseverence and effort leads to growth and improvement and this
positive ‘have a go’ attitude spills into all other areas of their lives.

 

Independence & Risk Assessment

 
Another by-product of completing ‘challenges by choice’ is that it encourages children to become more
independent. The more they succeed at these challenges, the more they realise that they can do things
by themselves. While our Outdoor Early Years Educators are always there to supervise and guide the
children, they also encourage the children to be as self-reliant as possible – when it is safe to do
so.

Risk assessment is also an integral skill that our team facilitate, through encouraging the children to
think through the potential outcomes of their planned actions. The more the children do this, the better
they become, and this also feeds into their sense of autonomy. Over the years, society has developed a
habit of wrapping children in cotton wool, however studies have shown that risk taking is vital for a
child’s development (Hanscom, 2015). By assessing and taking appropriate risks, a child learns what they
are capable of and become responsible for their own actions. This in turn leads to greater self-esteem
and self-belief.

Contributing to daily life in the forest also naturally develops independence, as the children develop
practical life skills such as chopping wood, cooking and building a fire. Knowing that they can fulfil
their basic survival needs makes children feel more secure in their world.

Psychological & Emotional Wellbeing

 
The Nature Kindergarten environment benefits a child’s psychological and emotional wellbeing in a
multitude of ways, such as connecting children with the awe inspiring wonder of nature and promoting
regular physical movement. Research shows that outdoor play also has a calming effect on children as
they get the opportunity to work off extra energy and are free from the sensory overload that indoor
environments can create. The peaceful natural environment allows children to focus and become absorbed
in what they are doing, which promotes a sense of ‘flow’ that is essential for mental wellbeing.

The natural environment also has many biological effects which contribute to a positive mental wellbeing,
for example reducing stress levels in children and increasing vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D deficiency
is becoming common in Ireland due to a lack of sun exposure and families spending more time indoors
using technological devices. Since this vitamin is responsible for releasing serotonin (otherwise known
as the happy hormone!) to the brain, it is necessary to regulate emotion and prevent depression and anxiety.
Another benefit of spending the day outdoors is that it exposes children to lots of natural light which helps
regulate melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which relaxes the body and promotes a good night’s sleep, so
this helps children feel more refreshed and better able to cope with life’s challenges.

Finally, aside from all the physical, educational and socio-emotional benefits that Nature Kindergarten
provides, learning outdoors allows the children to simply just ‘be children’!

To do as Mother Nature intended – run, climb, use their imaginations and to get completely lost in the
joy of their own play. In an age that becoming increasingly dominated by technology and instant gratification,
it is a rare and valuable opportunity to have a childhood like this.

Contact us today to arrange a viewing & see for yourself the unique & amazing environment that is The Nature Kindergarten!

The post The Social & Emotional Benefits of Nature Kindergarten for Children appeared first on Park Academy.

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There is extensive, worldwide research to support why the Nature Kindergarten philosophy of education is one of the most natural and beneficial approaches for a child. Learning through nature offers a truly holistic educational experience as it can improve all aspects of development, from improved physical & cognitive abilities to promoting social and emotional development. That’s not to even mention the immensely positive impact that outdoor education can have on a child’s health & overall sense of well-being.

In this three part blog series we will highlight the benefits the Nature Kindergarten offers to children in these three key areas. First up it’s physical development…

Gross Motor Skills

 
Research shows that playing outside for prolonged periods of time aids a child’s gross motor development, particularly in the areas of balance and coordination. Through the diverse range of activities at Nature Kindergarten, children get lots of opportunities to develop these skills, whether it’s developing hand-eye coordination through wood chopping and bark whittling or improving their balance as they navigate their way across the wobble boards or a tree trunk. Developing strong gross motor skills in the early years has big benefits for a child’s future development, particularly when they move on to school. Here gross motor skills are not only required for large body movement tasks (for example carrying a heavy school bag or throwing a ball) but also play a key role in a child’s ability to perform fine motor activities (e.g. closing coat buttons or writing letters).

Flexibility & Agility

 
Playing in the spacious, natural environment of Nature Kindergarten makes a child more supple and flexible as they are constantly using their muscles to run, jump and climb. The children also learn to adapt their movements and so they experience fewer injuries than children who engage in less frequent rough and tumble play. (Fjortoft and Sageie, 2000). Running on Nature Kindergarten’s naturally uneven forest terrain enables our children to become ‘sure footed’ and navigating obstacles helps them to develop strong spatial awareness. Skills like spatial awareness and flexibility are a big asset in to children in sport and other extracurricular activities and help them to stay fit and active throughout their life. The children at Nature Kindergarten also regularly assess their physical capabilities (‘Can I jump over that log?’ ‘Can I climb that high?’) and so are constantly motivated to push beyond these limits. As a result they become even more agile and grow in self-confidence.

“Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often”. (Fjortoft & Sageie 2001)

School Readiness

 
In the focus to get children academically ready for primary school, parents can overlook the importance of a child’s physical readiness for this environment. However in order for children to be able to sit upright in their chairs for hours, hold a pencil and navigate their way around a busy playground, they must also have developed physical strength and coordination. In addition to the five senses, experts have identified two lesser known senses called the vestibular and proprioceptive senses which are required to complete these kinds of tasks. For example the vestibular sense (which communicates to us about our head position) and the proprioceptive sense (which relays information about your body’s position in the environment) are both necessary for good posture, reading and writing and activities like walking on tip toes in P.E.

A child who does not fully develop these senses may experience challenges in school such as struggling to follow instructions, bumping into others during play-time, or difficulties with hand-eye coordination tasks such as cutting. The Nature Kindergarten environment naturally develops these senses (as well as physical strength, coordination and balance) through the variety of physical activities that a child engages in each day. As a result Junior Infant Teachers have reported that children who attend The Nature Kindergarten are often more equipped to meet the physical demands that school presents.

Chopping wood aids a child’s physical development

  Stamina & Endurance

 
The children at Nature Kindergarten get lots of natural exercise each day which strengthens their bones and muscles, develops their cardiovascular system and builds their level of stamina. Stamina is important for good health at every age – without it a child will tire easily and find it difficult to perform certain tasks. Increasing strength and endurance also boosts a child’s metabolism, causing them to burn more calories even when they are resting. This reduces the chance of a child developing obesity – a condition that is becoming more and more prevalent in Ireland in today’s society. Building up stamina and endurance at a young age will encourage children to remain physically active as they get older and increase their chances of living a healthy lifestyle.

It is clear that the Nature Kindergarten provides huge benefits for a child’s physical development, as well as for their general health and well-being. These physical benefits also have a positive impact on other areas of a child’s development, including their cognitive and emotional development. Our next blog post will focus on the key benefits of the Nature Kindergarten environment for children’s cognitive development, so keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page for updates!

The post The Physical Development Benefits of Nature Kindergarten for Children appeared first on Park Academy.

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With many parents now in full-time employment, childcare has become an integral part of modern life. In Ireland at present there are three main options for childcare – crèches, childminders and family support. Choosing the right option for you is important, as your chosen provider will play a big role in your family’s life.

Every option will come with its advantages, and possibly challenges, so it’s important to think carefully about these options and to gather as much information as possible. This way you can ensure that you choose a childcare provider who best meets your family’s needs.

The following are some guidelines to help you in this decision making process:

1 – Your Work Schedule & Lifestyle

The first thing you need to do is to assess your work schedule and how this will impact on your childcare arrangements. For instance;

Do you work full-time? Do you commute to work? What hours do you work?

These factors will all determine the type of childcare you need or that will work best for you and your family. For instance, parents who work a couple of days a week may rely on Granny or Grandad for part-time care, whereas parents who work long days value the flexibility that crèche hours provide. At Park Academy Childcare we open from 7:30 – 6:30pm (and from 7am at our crèche in Greystones) in order to accommodate parents with a long working day or commute.

For those availing of public transport, finding a provider close to their DART or Luas station may be a priority. For instance the proximity of our Sandyford centres to the Luas Green Line is a big advantage for many of our parents who commute to the city centre on a daily basis. In any case, as a working parent it is vital to have childcare that you can depend on. Choosing a suitable provider from the start will save unnecessary stress and hassle down the line.

2 – Identifying a High Quality Childcare Service

Once you have decided on the type of childcare you need, the next step should be to research quality childcare providers in your area. The most important thing to begin with is to determine that the childcare provider is Tusla registered and that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure your child’s protection. Being enrolled with a Tusla registered provider is also necessary requirement in order to receive the Universal Childcare Subsidy. You can read more about this and other childcare subsidies here.

Qualifications are also important, as is the provider’s experience and training. As of December 2016, all childcare workers must now hold a minimum of FETAC level 5 in order to work in a crèche. This has ensured that high standards in childcare are maintained. All new members of the Park Academy Childcare team receive three months induction training as well as training in first aid. Our team also participate in regular training workshops throughout their career. Encouraging and supporting our staff to enhance their skills and experience is key to our employee culture a key part of our employee culture and this plays a big role in ensuring the high quality service that we are proud to provide for our families. Find out more about our fantastic Care and Education team and the role that they play in staff development here.

Nutrition is another important consideration for many parents and at Park Academy Childcare we are committed to providing fresh, wholesome chef prepared meals for our children every day. All meals are prepared onsite in our crèche kitchens and our chefs are always happy to chat to parents about our menus and to accommodate any special dietary requirements that a child may have. Your child’s nutrition is an important aspect of their care, so don’t be afraid to bring this subject up with a potential childcare provider. Read more about our nutrition policy here.

In today’s economy childcare is one of a parent’s main expenses, so it is important to ensure that you are receiving a high quality service. Work out your maximum budget for childcare and decide what is most important to you in terms of your child’s care. Then assess potential childcare providers on this basis.

3 – Safety and Security

When it comes to quality of care, safety and security should be a huge consideration. Ensuring that your child is safe and happy is the main responsibility of any childcare provider and parents should investigate this area thoroughly. After assessing your childcare providers’ qualifications, you should check references and speak to other trusted sources who have used their service. Also take the time to view the premises where your child will be spending most of their day and pay attention to the facilities such as the crèche’s changing rooms and gardens.

Be sure to also enquire about the company’s safety and security policies, as well as the procedures they have in place for child protection. At Park Academy Childcare, we go further than most to ensure complete peace of mind and our parents value this greatly.

For example we operate an open door policy which means parents can pop in at any time of the day, by using the special keypad code. We also have extensive CCTV networks throughout our centres, with cameras on every external door, in all common areas and in all changing areas and cot rooms. A crèche’s website should include information on security so always check this out prior to your visit. Any parental concerns should be addressed with the crèche manager during the initial visit.

4 – Activities and Stimulation

When it comes to choosing childcare, it’s important to consider how much stimulation your child will receive. Children will typically spend most of their day with their carers and this daily routine will impact hugely on their overall development and happiness.

Therefore if you are considering a childminder, don’t be afraid to enquire about their lifestyle and the kind of activities your children will be doing with them. Young children particularly need lots of stimulation and attention so this should be a top priority for a caregiver. A good crèche will provide lots of fun and educational activities for children, which enhance every aspect of their development. At Park Academy Childcare we facilitate sensory play, arts and crafts, music and baking among many other activities. Our team can fully commit themselves to the children’s care, ensuring that they receive the attention, affection and stimulation they need. You can read more about the activities we provide here.

When viewing a crèche pay attention to the facilities and come prepared with a list of questions. Enquire about the children’s routine, the activities they will do and ask why parents choose that particular crèche.

5 – A Nurturing Environment 

Above all, the biggest consideration for any parent will be the love and nurture that their child will receive in someone else’s care. No matter what type of childcare that you decide on, this will rightly be the number one  priority. When assessing potential carers, spend some time getting to know them and trust how you feel in their presence. When viewing a crèche, pay attention to the atmosphere in the rooms. Chat to the team and watch as they interact with the children. Ask lots and lots of questions and listen to the language that is used. A good childcare provider will be happy to answer all of your questions and will want to put your mind at ease.

As mentioned above, checking references is highly recommended, even if you know the person. Likewise with crèches – trusted recommendations are invaluable so ask a friend for their opinions. A huge amount of our parents have been referred to us by a friend and this is something that we are very proud of. Word of mouth will always be a very reliable indicator of customer satisfaction.

Lastly, preparation is key when it comes to childcare so give yourself as much time as possible for this process. The earlier you begin investigating your childcare options, the better options you will have. At present, crèches in particular are experiencing very high levels of demand so waiting lists have become a necessity for many centres. Therefore you may need to make a decision early on, to ensure availability for your chosen start date. There is nothing worse than finding the perfect crèche, only to discover that they have no places available!

To check availability in one of our eight centres or to find out more about our service contact our enquiries team today.

Also don’t forget to check out our Facebook page and Nature Kindergarten Facebook page for regular news and updates. This is a great way to see get a glimpse into daily life at our centres!

Wishing you the very best of luck on your childcare journey.

The post Tips for Choosing a Childcare Provider appeared first on Park Academy.

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Choosing a childcare provider is a very important decision for any parent. Several factors will play a key role in this decision, including location, the type of service provided (e.g. full or part-time hours) the quality of the service provided (e.g. the crèche facilities, standard of care and quality of the food provided), the service’s policies and procedures (i.e. that they are registered with Tusla and are compliant with child protection regulations) and the cost.

At Park Academy Childcare, providing the highest quality of childcare has always been our number one priority. We know that parents want best for their children and we strive to provide this in every aspect of our care. However we also understand that a family’s budget can have an influence on their choice of childcare provider.

Therefore we fully welcomed a proposal that emerged from the 2017 budget, which outlined new childcare subsidies for working parents availing of TUSLA registered childcare in Ireland.

The Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS)

 
In 2017 a new national Affordable Childcare Scheme was introduced by the Government to provide financial support for working parents. This scheme has replaced previous targeted childcare programmes and represents a new, more streamlined approach to childcare support in Ireland. The aim of the Affordable Childcare Scheme was to provide both universal and targeted subsidies for parents, which would contribute towards the cost of their childcare.

At present the Universal Childcare Subsidy has been implemented but plans to roll out the second targeted scheme (named the Single Affordable Childcare scheme) have been delayed. Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has confirmed that applications for this targeted scheme will open in mid-October 2019.

What is the Universal Childcare Subsidy?

 
The Universal Childcare Subsidy or CCSU (Community Childcare Subvention Universal) is a non means tested universal childcare subsidy that is available to all children in Ireland who fulfil the scheme’s criteria (outlined below).

The subsidy is paid to the childcare provider and therefore is deducted from the overall bill that a parent receives from their childcare service each month.

Is my child eligible for the Universal Childcare Subsidy?

 
In order for your child to be eligible for the Universal Childcare Subsidy they must meet the following conditions:

  • They must attend a Tusla registered childcare service (To find out how to check if your provider is registered see our ‘useful links & more information’ section at the end).
  • They must be above the age of 6 months and below the age of 36 months*

*When a child turns 3 years old they will then be eligible for the free Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme. In the case that a child is slightly older than 3 years old starting ECCE, they may continue to receive the Universal subsidy until they begin.

Note: Children younger than 6 months may qualify for a subsidy of up to €145 per week under the targeted childcare subsidy (or Single Affordable Childcare Scheme) due to be implemented in October 2019. However this will be a means tested payment. For more information on the planned targeted subsidies see our More Information and Useful Links section below.

What is the Universal Childcare Subsidy rate?

 
The subsidy payment is based on the amount of hours that a child attends their childcare service, with children enrolled in full-time childcare receiving the maximum amount of €1,040 per year towards their childcare fees.

Children who attend a childcare service for less than full-time hours will be allocated a pro-rata subsidy amount based on the hours that they attend.

How do I apply for the Universal Childcare Subsidy?

 
The first step is to contact your childcare provider to check that they are taking part in the scheme. The majority of childcare providers in Ireland have registered for the Universal Subsidy Scheme including Park Academy Childcare

You will then need to check that your chosen childcare provider is registered with Tusla as this is a necessary requirement for receiving the universal childcare subsidy. See our useful links section at the end of this post to find out how you can check if a provider is registered.

What will I need to provide in order to receive the subsidy?

 
You will need to submit both you and your child’s names, date of births and PPSN numbers to your provider in order to register for the scheme. To register for the Universal Childcare Subsidy with Park Academy Childcare simply contact our enquiries team with these details.

Can I avail of both the Universal Subsidy & another targeted childcare subsidy at the same time?

 
You cannot avail of the Universal Childcare Subsidy and another targeted subsidy at the same time. In this case you will need to choose which subsidy is of greatest benefit to you and register for this subsidy only.

Useful Links & More Information

Top Tips for Choosing a Pre-school 

Compliance & Safety at Park Academy Childcare

The ECCE Scheme at Park Academy Childcare 

Special Offers & our Corporate Discount at Park Academy Childcare 

Find your nearest Park Academy Childcare crèche centre 

Contact our enquiries team about the Universal Childcare Subsidy, ECCE Scheme or other subsidies 

For more information on the Universal Childcare Subsidy 

For more information on the planned targeted (means tested) subsidies for October 2019 

List of  Tusla registered Early Years Services by county 

List of County/City Childcare Committees 

For more information on the assistance available for childcare costs 

The post Early Childcare Subsidies – What Parents Need to Know appeared first on Park Academy.

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‘We are losing our language for the natural world. We no longer name or know the most common creatures like nightjar or eel. We’re disconnected from the fields, the meanings of our place names and the wild world that they once referenced. And with the words, a dramatic vanishing of Ireland’s nature itseslf’

The Team and the children at The Nature Kindergarten recently welcomed the crew from RTE’s Lyric FM, who visited to observe daily life in our forest at Killruddery. This visit was featured as part of Lyric FM’s podcast ‘Into the Wind’ which explores the declining connection between humans and their natural environment . In particular, the episode focuses on how the absence of certain words from our language is one of the strongest indicators of this growing disconnection. The crew talk to our Nature Kindergarten Manager Dr. Sophie Nicol who explains how Park Academy’s Nature Kindergarten helps children to retain this essential connection with nature by stimulating their innate sense of awe and wonder.

‘There is something deep inside us that responds to this because we came from this’

Listen to the full podcast here!

The post RTE’s Lyric Fm Visit The Nature Kindergarten – Podcast Feature appeared first on Park Academy.

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Park Academy | Park Childcare Blog by Park Academy Childcare - 7M ago

Last week was full of spook-tacular fun and games as we celebrated Halloween at Park Academy Childcare.

Wednesday was a special dress up day in our creches and we were so impressed by the effort that everyone made!

From the spooky to the utterly adorable, our children were dressed to the very best and they thoroughly enjoyed the fun and festivities.

Our amazingly talented team also took things to a new level this year with a range of fantastic costumes which represented some of the children’s favourite characters. From our Minions in Park Academy Cherrywood, to our Lego Men (and women!) in Beacon South Quarter, each team showcased their endless creativity & imagination.

Events like these create such a lovely atmosphere in our creches and it is a really special experience for our children and parents alike. Thank you to our fantastic families for taking part and to all our wonderful childcare professionals for the enthusiasm that they bring to their roles each and every day. You are the best. Happy Halloween everyone!

The post Best Dressed in Creche! appeared first on Park Academy.

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Here are our top tips and advice when it comes to choosing a pre-school for your little one.

It’s officially back to school season and many parents will be preparing to choose a pre-school as their child becomes eligible for ECCE funding.

This can be a big decision as pre-school is a child’s first experience of the education system and it lays the foundation for future learning.

With this in mind, it pays to explore the different pre-school options that are available in your locality and to be informed about the factors you need to consider…

1. Assess Pre-School Options Early On

When choosing a crèche for your baby or toddler, it’s advised that you also assess the suitability of the centre’s pre-school, since your child will be moving on to this area in a couple of years.

So when visiting a prospective crèche, be sure to view all the rooms (not just the baby room) and pay attention to information about the pre-school programme and facilities. Make sure to also assess the outdoor space that is available as this will become more important as your child reaches pre-school age.

Our Cherrywood centre in Tullyvale has a large outdoor play area with lots of exciting play equipment that our pre-schoolers just love. Their parents also love that they are active throughout the day, running, climbing and playing outside with their friends. Our pre-schoolers also enjoy bus tours after they turn three years old, which opens up a whole new world of education for them.

Decide early what will be important to you and your family at every stage of development and base your decision on how the crèche or pre-school meets these needs.

2. Seek Out Information Online

Most pre-schools and childcare providers will have a website and/or social media accounts which can provide a lot of information & an insight into the quality of care that they provide. This can also help parents to assess the facilities and the type of activities that the children enjoy regularly.

When visiting a pre-school’s website, pay close attention to things like the ethos, their education programme, staff qualifications & training and the facilities that the centre has to offer. A good pre-school should also provide information about their compliance and regulations as well as their child protection policies.

It can help to jot down some notes on the advantages of each pre-school and also to note any dis-advantages or concerns that you may have about the service. You can then address these questions or queries later on, if you decide to make an enquiry or visit the pre-school for a viewing.

3. Ask for Recommendations

At Park Academy Childcare, a high number of our enquiries come from referrals – either from our current families or parents who have previously availed of our service. A referral from a trusted family member or friend is hugely valuable when choosing a pre-school provider as it gives you vital information about the quality of care and education that they provide.

We recommend that you have a list of questions prepared before seeking referrals so that you can get all the information you need to make a decision. Questions such as the following can help you decide if the pre-school might be suitable for your child:

Why did you choose this pre-school?
What type of education or curriculum do they provide?
What kind of facilities do they offer?
What activities do they provide?
What kind of relationship do you have with the Teachers/Early Years Educators?
Would you recommend this pre-school?

4. Arrange a Viewing

After shortlisting some options, we recommend that you view your preferred pre-school(s) before coming to a final decision. Visiting a pre-school will tell you a lot about the ethos & the quality of care and education. It will also will give you a chance to meet and chat with the Teacher/Early Years Educators and observe the children in their environment as they play and learn. Pay close attention to the feeling you get from the environment – a good pre-school should be welcoming & inviting. Trust your intuition. It will always be your best guide.

We also recommend that you have a list of questions ready and that you communicate these during your visit. Be sure to ask about a crèche’s policies and procedures (such as their illness and vaccination policies) if this information is not provided.

At Park Academy Childcare we encourage parents to bring their child along to their pre-school viewing so that they too can meet our team and explore our facilities. Our managers are always more than happy to provide a comprehensive tour of their centre and to answer as many questions or queries as you may have. Simply give us a call and we will set up a viewing for you for your preferred location at a time that is convenient.

5. Find Out More About the Curriculum

It’s always beneficial to do some online research on the type of education provided. However don’t be afraid to seek further clarification on this when you make a visit. Educational methods and approaches can vary so it’s important that you are happy with the curriculum and educational ethos before your child starts pre-school.

At Park Academy Childcare, our pre-school education programme is based on the Aistear Curriculum – the national curriculum framework for children from birth to six years as developed by the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment). Aistear is built on four pillars – Wellbeing, Communication, Identity & Belonging, Exploring & Thinking – and our children are supported to achieve learning objectives in each area, through play and positive learning relationships with adults and their peers.

When exploring a pre-school’s education policies it can be helpful to consider the following:

What is the educational ethos of the pre-school? (E.g. Montessori, play based learning etc.)
What kind of learning goals & objectives are set for the children?
Does the pre-school offer lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration & imaginative play?
Do they focus on social & emotional development as well as academic learning?
How do the Early Years Education team assess learning & development?
What kind of educational materials are available to supplement learning?

6. Consider Qualifications & Training

Lastly when it comes to choosing a pre-school one of the most important considerations should be the team of people that will be caring for and educating your child. Before choosing a pre-school you should clarify that the staff are qualified, establish what level of qualifications they hold and enquire about the pre-school’s child protection policies and compliance.

At Park Academy Childcare, our team are our greatest asset in providing high quality childcare that parents can trust. Therefore we ensure that we choose the very best people and that we provide them with the support and assistance they require. This includes providing opportunities for ongoing training and development and working hard to ensure that Park Academy is a great place to work for all team members.

A Final Thought…

After collecting all the information take the time to review your findings & process the information you have received. Most importantly though, trust your gut instinct on which pre-school best suits your child and your family’s needs.

Then you can take the next steps, confident in the knowledge that you have made an informed, considered choice. Starting pre-school is an exciting milestone for both you and your child so be sure to also enjoy this special time.

You can relax knowing that your child has an abundance of fun and stimulating experiences ahead of them!

Park Academy Childcare is parent’s number one choice for quality childcare. We provide baby, toddler, pre-school & after-school care & are based in eight locations across South Dublin & Wicklow. For more information on Park Academy Childcare & to see our locations go to www.parkchildcare.ie. To speak to our team or arrange a viewing contact us on 1890 273 243 or email us on info@parkchildcare.ie.

Follow us on Facebook & LinkedIn to see the latest tips, news & events!

The post Choosing a Pre-school – Our Top Tips! appeared first on Park Academy.

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