Find out more about Aistear, the national curriculum framework, and Siolta, the national quality framework, and how to bring these policy documents to life in developing quality early childhood practice with the children and adults in your service.
Here you will find links to Aistear and Siolta manuals, along with the Aistear siolta practice guide. Information on Siolta mentoring which is available from Kilkenny County Childcare Committee development officers, and engaging in the Siolta quality assurance programme. For more supports in developing your quality practice see our Resource section.
About Aistear & Siolta
Aistear is the curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland.
It provides information for adults to help them plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences, so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others. Aistear describes the types of learning that are important for children in their early years, and offers ideas and suggestions as to how this learning might be nurtured. The Framework also provides guidelines on supporting children’s learning through partnerships with parents, interactions, play, and assessment.
In supporting children’s early learning and development Aistear :
- identifies what and how children should learn, and describes the types of experiences that can support this
- makes connections in children’s learning throughout the early childhood years and as they move from one setting to another
- supports parents as their children’s primary educators during early childhood, and promotes effective partnerships between parents and practitioners
- complements and extends existing curriculums and materials
- informs practice across a range of settings, disciplines and professions, and encourages interdisciplinary work.
Aistear is based on 12 principles of early learning and development and discusses children’s learning using four themes.
The four themes:
- Identity and Belonging
- Exploring and Thinking
Each theme contains four aims which are further divided into six learning goals. Sample learning opportunities provide ideas and suggestions to support adults in meeting these learning goals. For further information on Aistear’s learning themes visit the Aistear website.
Principles of Early Learning and Development
Aistear is based on 12 principles of early learning and development. These are presented in three groups:
- The first group concerns children and their lives in early childhood:
the child’s uniqueness, equality and diversity and children as citizens
- The second group concerns children’s connections with others:
Relationships, Parents, family and community, and The adult’s role
- The third group concerns how children learn and develop:
Holistic learning and development, Active learning, Play and hands-on experiences, Relevant and meaningful experiences, Communication and language, and The learning environment.
For further information on Aistear’s principles of early learning and development visit the Aistear website.
Siolta is Ireland’s National Quality Framework intended to provide guidance and support for all those concerned with the well-being, learning and development of young children.
It is a quality assurance programme aimed at improving the quality of early childhood experiences for all children aged from birth to six years. The framework is based on 12 Principles of Quality which reflect the values underpinning Siolta and the vision of quality provision it offers. The practical application of these principles are supported through Siolta’s Standards of Quality.
Síolta challenges everyone working in the ECCE sector to think about the quality of the experiences we provide for young children. It is intended that the discussion, reflection and debate on the Principles, Standards, Components and Signposts will enrich both the lives of children and the professional practice of adults.
For more detailed information on Siolta visit the Siolta website.
The 12 Principles of Siolta
- The Value of Early Childhood – Early childhood is a significant and distinct time in life that must be nurtured, respected, valued and supported in its own right
- Children First – The child’s individuality, strengths, rights and needs are central in the provision of quality early childhood experiences.
- Parents– Parents are the primary educators of the child and have a pre-eminent role in promoting his/her well-being, learning and development.
- Relationships– Responsive, sensitive and reciprocal relationships which are consistent over time, are essential to the wellbeing, learning and development of the young child.
- Equality– Equality is an essential characteristic of quality early childhood care and education
- Diversity– Quality early childhood settings acknowledge and respect diversity and ensure that all children and families have their individual, personal, cultural and linguistic identity validated.
- Enriching Environments– The physical environment of the young child has a direct impact on his/her well-being, learning and development
- Welfare– The safety, welfare and well-being of all children must be protected and promoted in all early childhood environments
- Role of the Adult– The role of the adult in providing quality early childhood experiences is fundamental.
- Teamwork– The provision of quality early childhood experiences requires cooperation, communication and mutual respect.
- Pedagogy– Pedagogy in early childhood is expressed by curricula or programmes of activities which take a holistic approach to the development and learning of the child and reflect the inseparable nature of care and education.
- Play– Play is central to the well-being, development and learning of the young child.
For more detailed information on the principles of the Siolta framework click here.
Siolta’s Quality Standards
- Rights of the Child
Ensuring that each child’s rights are met requires that she/he is enabled to exercise choice and to use initiative as an active participant and partner in her/his own development and learning
Enriching environments, both indoor and outdoor (including materials and equipment) are well maintained, safe, available, accessible, adaptable, developmentally appropriate, and offer a variety of challenging and stimulating experiences.
- Parents & Family
Valuing and involving parents and families requires a proactive partnership approach evidenced by a range of clearly stated, accessible and implemented processes, policies and procedures.
Ensuring inclusive decision-making requires consultation that promotes participation and seeks out, listens to and acts upon the views and opinions of children, parents and staff, and other stakeholders, as appropriate.
Fostering constructive interactions (child/child, child/adult and adult/adult) requires explicit policies, procedures and practice that emphasise the value of process and are based on mutual respect, equal partnership and sensitivity.
Promoting play requires that each child has ample time to engage in freely available and accessible, developmentally appropriate and well-resourced opportunities for exploration, creativity and ‘meaning making’ in the company of other children, with participating and supportive adults and alone, where appropriate.
Encouraging each child’s holistic development and learning requires the implementation of a verifiable, broad-based, documented and flexible curriculum or programme
- Planning & Evaluation
Enriching and informing all aspects of practice within the setting requires cycles of observation, planning, action and evaluation, undertaken on a regular basis.
- Health & Welfare
Promoting the health and welfare of the child requires protection from harm, provision of nutritious food, appropriate opportunities for rest, and secure relationships characterised by trust and respect.
Organising and managing resources effectively requires an agreed written philosophy, supported by clearly communicated policies and procedures to guide and determine practice.
- Professional Practice
Practising in a professional manner requires that individuals have skills, knowledge, values and attitudes appropriate to their role and responsibility within the setting. In addition, it requires regular reflection upon practice and engagement in supported, ongoing professional development.
Communicating effectively in the best interests of the child requires policies, procedures and actions that promote the proactive sharing of knowledge and information among appropriate stakeholders, with respect and confidentiality.
Ensuring continuity of experiences for children requires policies, procedures and practice that promote sensitive management of transitions, consistency in key relationships, liaison within and between settings, the keeping and transfer of relevant information (with parental consent), and the close involvement of parents and, where appropriate, relevant professionals.
- Identity & Belonging
Promoting positive identities and a strong sense of belonging requires clearly defined policies, procedures and practice that empower every child and adult to develop a confident self- and group identity, and to have a positive understanding and regard for the identity and rights of others.
- Legislation & Regulation
Being compliant requires that all relevant regulations and legislative requirements are met or exceeded.
- Community Involvement
Promoting community involvement requires the establishment of networks and connections evidenced by policies, procedures and actions which extend and support all adult’s and children’s engagement with the wider community.
Curriculum Foundations are an important starting point when thinking about curriculum. Curriculum Foundations are rooted in the principles, values and attitudes that shape each practitioner’s work and that of the setting. The Foundations include the following four elements:
Element 1: Developing your Curriculum and Curriculum Statement
Element 2: Principles including Rights of the Child and Practitioner Image of the Child
Element 3: Themes in Aistear
Element 4: Professional Practice
The 6 Interconnected Pillars of Practice are
- Building Partnerships with Parents
- Creating and using the Learning Environment
- Learning Through Play
- Nurturing and Extending Interactions
- Planning and Assessing, using Aistear’s Themes
- Supporting Transitions
Each Pillar is presented in the same format and includes:
An Overview, Self-Evaluation Tools (This section includes a number of Elements. Each element has a series of statements to assist the service to reflect on their current practice.), Examples and Ideas for Practice, Resources for Sharing (Tip-sheets, Templates and Sample Presentations), Action Planning Tools, and a Gallery.
The Practice Guide includes a range of resources, to help practitioners to critically reflect on their curriculum, and to identify what works well. Additionally, the resources can help practitioners to identify priorities for development and to plan actions for positive change.
For further information visit aistearsiolta.ie.
In 2015 the Aistear Siolta Practice guide was developed as a tool to support practitioners in implementing Aistear and Siolta to develop the quality of their curriculum, and in turn to support children’s learning and development in their early years settings. The Practice Guide includes a range of resources to help practitioners to critically reflect on their curriculum and to identify what works well. Additionally, the resources can help practitioners to identify priorities for development and to plan actions for positive change. In this way, the Practice Guide can be used for on-going review, development and improvement by individual practitioners, practitioners working together and by practitioners supported by a mentor. The practice guide is structured by sections – Curriculum Foundations, and Curriculum pillars. It is recommended to start working with the curriculum foundations as these form the basis for the work in the Curriculum Pillars. You can also find many of the practice guide tools in our Resource Section, which is categorised according to the Pillars of Practice.
The National Early Years Quality Development Service – Better Start, use the practice guide as a basis for their work with services.