JIS News

The regulations for the Early Childhood Act, passed in the House of Representatives in September, are now before the Upper House for consideration.
The regulations, which are intended to make the more than 2,100 early childhood institutions in the island adhere to stipulations, address the educational and physical well-being of children and seek to ensure that school grounds meet minimum infrastructure and safety standards, among other things.
Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman who led the debate at yesterday’s (October 13) sitting of the Senate, said although there were concerns that the provisions were over-ambitious and could not be implemented as too much was being demanded, they should be looked at in the broader goal of lifting the standards of performance and provision for the youngest members of the community.
“I believe the general thinking is that if we really want to move the society forward and upward, then you really have to set standards affecting every area of work, but particularly in the business of early childhood preparation and early childhood development,” he told the Senate.
Opposition Senator, Anthony Johnson in his remarks, said while the regulations were admirable, it was questionable whether they were also achievable.
He further queried the extent to which operators of early childhood institutions were brought into the planning of the provisions and their awareness of the proposed standards. He also asked whether operators would be given time to bring their institutions, buildings, and facilities up to levels that could meet the standards.
Furthermore, he said account would have to be taken of the island’s financial and economic realities where the majority of early childhood institutions would not be able to meet the specifications.
Senator Johnson suggested that visits should be made to all the relevant schools across the country to examine their status, so they could be given adequate time to improve the physical facilities so as to make the regulations applicable.
The regulations also outline the qualifications, and specify that employers must hire at least one qualified teacher trained at the Diploma level at a recognised teacher training college. Operators of early childhood institutions must be trained in a number of areas namely: paediatric first aid; use of universal precautions against blood borne diseases; and recognising child abuse and symptoms of common illnesses.
With respect to child abuse, under Regulation 10, if an operator discerns that a child is being abused, he or she is required to report it to the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).
The regulations came in the wake of the Early Childhood Act, that serves as the legislative framework under which the ECC operates.
The ECC was officially brought into law in 2003, and is a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral body that recognises that children aged 0 to seven have individual needs that should be addressed in a holistic way.
Currently, the ECC is conducting pilot registration of early childhood facilities in the parishes of St. Catherine and Clarendon to assist the Education Ministry in acquiring a template to be used to register all institutions in the future. The registration process is expected to conclude by January 2006.