04 June, 2024 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

What pay increases have been agreed for the early learning and childcare workforce?

Little girl smiling at the camera in a preschool holding colourful balls

The minimum hourly rates are set to increase in the Early Years Services Sector as a new Employment Regulation Order will come into play later this month.

The Employment Regulation Orders apply to approximately 33,000 educators and it is estimated that 53% of those working in the sector will see their wages rise as a result of the new Employment Regulation Orders.

These amended Employment Regulation Orders increase the minimum hourly rates applicable from 24 June 2024 as follows:

  • Early Years Educators and School Age Childcare (SAC) Practitioners €13.00 to €13.65
  • Lead Educators (Room Leaders) and School Age Childcare (SAC) Coordinators €14.00 to €14.70
  • Graduate Lead Educators (Room Leaders) and Graduate School Age Childcare (SAC) Coordinators €15.50 to €16.28
  • Deputy/Assistant Manager €15.70 to €16.49
  • Centre Manager €16.50 to € 17.33
  • Graduate Centre Manager €17.25 to €18.11

This means there are increasing financial benefits to gaining your level 7 BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education degree or BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education degree if you are working in the sector, particularly with 80% of the course fees covered by the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund (NSLF).

The removal of the requirement for graduates to have three years of experience before they are eligible for Graduate Lead Educator and Graduate Manager rates of pay from the Employment Regulation Orders will also come into play.

Services participating in Core Funding will be able to claim the graduate premium for all Graduate Lead Educators and managers with degrees regardless of their experience.

Denise Flood is the College Director and Head of the Early Years Department at Portobello Institute.

"I am delighted with the announcement which estimates that 53% of those working in the early years sector in Ireland will see their wages rise. This development is a significant step forward in recognising the crucial role that early years educators play in our society.

"At Portobello Institute, we have always emphasised the importance of early childhood education and the dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to provide quality care and learning experiences to young children. The approved pay increases are a testament to the value of their work and the impact they have on the development and well-being of our youngest learners.
"We are particularly pleased to see the comprehensive approach taken by the Government in addressing both pay and career pathways. The new wage scales and the removal of experience requirements for graduates will undoubtedly enhance the attractiveness of careers in this sector, aiding in both recruitment and retention of talented educators.
"These changes align perfectly with our mission at Portobello Institute to prepare our students for meaningful and rewarding careers in early childhood education. The improved pay and conditions will not only benefit current educators but will also inspire and motivate our students who are the future of this profession.
"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with industry partners and the Government to ensure that early childhood education receives the support and recognition it deserves. Together, we can build a robust and sustainable future for this essential sector," she said.

Emer Higgins is the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail. She accepted the proposal for these changes.

“Those working in the early learning and childcare sector provide an outstanding service to infants and children while offering invaluable support to growing families," she said.

Minister Roderic O’Gorman has welcomed the move which will support career pathways and will help to support the recruitment and retention of early years educators and school-age childcare practitioners.

“Improvement in pay and conditions is essential if we are to recognise the important work that is done every day by those who work in this sector. It is also essential if we are to improve recruitment and retention and raise the profile of careers in the sector. And it is essential if we are to support the ongoing professionalisation of the sector," he said. 

Nurturing Skills Learner Fund

Portobello Institute is participating in the new Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme (NSLF)

The new fund helps early years educators to upskill to level 7 and level 8 qualifications by covering a large part of the cost.

The courses covered by the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme at Portobello Institute include:

How Much of the Cost Does the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme Cover?

Fees for the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme are calculated as follows:

  • Cost per academic year: €3,600
  • Nurture Fund Grant at 80% of fee: €2,880
  • Cost to student per academic year: €720

Important: If you remain working in the early years sector for 6 months after completion of the course, you will be entitled to reclaim 10% of the total fees i.e. €360 per academic year.

The total cost to the student, after this rebate, will be €720 for the 2 years of the level 7 degree.

Payment method – pay €720 to secure your place in year 1.

A similar amount will be payable on or before 30th June 2025 to secure your place and confirm progression to year 2.

Students will need to provide evidence of NSLF approval to Portobello Institute after applying for either of the degree programmes.

Latest dates released by Pobal

  • Employment records have to be submitted by 12/06/24
  • The Application open date is now 07/06/24
  • The Application closing date is now 26/06/24

Applicants can email Pobal, at NSLF@pobal.ie to request a link to the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Student Portal. 

Use the link you receive to verify your employment record with the early years sector, by uploading proof of employment. Employment records have to be submitted by 12/06/24.

 Please note the NSLF information states:

  • No applications will be considered for eligibility after the closing date of 26th June 2024
  • Availability for the pilot NSLF is limited across all Higher Education Institutes. With a high level of interest in this fund, it is anticipated that the demand for funded places will surpass the number available. It is crucial to apply early to avoid disappointment.

Secure your place at Portobello Institute now - pending funding approval

The BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care & Education - Blended Learning - 2 Year (level 7) and the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care & Education - Blended Learning - 3 Year (level 8) courses will start on 5th October 2024.

The places on these courses are becoming increasingly scarce.

If you hold a level 5/6 qualification in Early Childhood Care and Education or equivalent you can secure your place on the programme pending NSLF funding.

You can apply and pay your deposit of €720 (total Year 1 Fees with NSLF funding) now whilst you await confirmation of your funding eligibility.
Due to the nature of NSLF, the deposit you pay now is all you will pay in fees for the year, so no payment plans are in place.
If you have paid the deposit of €720 and discover you are not eligible for NSLF, we will process your refund application after the submission of the rejection letter from DCEDIY in line with our current refund policy.
If you have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert course advisor Sarah Coyne email sarah.coyne@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0041.


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