Belfast Telegraph

O’Dowd emphasises important role of early years education

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Education

Early years practitioners have an important role to play in improving the development and life chances of our youngest children.

That was the message from Education Minister, John O’Dowd today as he addressed students studying for an HND in Advanced Practice in Work with Children and Families. During his visit to the South Eastern Regional College the Minister set out for students and staff his vision for education and the role of early years education and learning provision within that.

Speaking at the event in the Downpatrick campus, Minister O’Dowd said: “The early years of a child’s life are of critical importance to their future educational development. Early interventions have been proven to help reduce barriers to learning that may, otherwise, affect children’s longer-term chances of success. 

“I value opportunities to meet some of our future early years workforce, as well as the opportunity to emphasise and reinforce the importance of early years education and learning services in the development of children.

“I have continued to prioritise early years, both in terms of investment and policy development. I recently launched ‘Learning to Learn – A Framework for Early Years Education and Learning’. The actions within the framework are aimed at raising standards for all, narrowing the gap in achievement, developing the education workforce and improving the learning environment for children.”

The Minister emphasised the importance of the home learning environment and of parents taking an active role in their child’s education. He said: “Education does not begin and end at the school gates; it starts at home and continues at home. I want to ensure that parents are better informed about the benefits of pre-school provision, and education generally, and that they are enabled to provide a positive and nurturing home learning environment.

“It is encouraging that a key element of the HND course is working with families. We need current and future early years practitioners to help us reach out to parents and help them get involved in their child’s education.”

In conclusion the Minister stressed the importance of early years services highlighting the important contribution many of the students will be making to improving life chances for children in the future. He said: “The role that many of the students will have in helping to develop young children and the support they can provide to families will be essential. They will be helping to secure improved outcomes by preparing, supporting and encouraging children to learn.” 

Notes to editors:
1. South Eastern Regional College provides services to almost 30,000 learners. Services include Further and Higher Education courses, apprenticeships, professional development training, community education, online learning, tailored training for business, support for SMEs, Technology Transfer and IT solutions.

2. There were approx 50 attendees at the event, mainly HND students and staff, from the Early Years Faculty.

3. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel:

4. View photos from the Department of Education in our collection at

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