This paper presents preliminary findings from stage two of a research project on the day-to-day lives of children, who are currently seeking asylum in Ireland and living in Direct Provision accommodation. Building on research previously undertaken with parents (O’Riordan, et al 2013) this paper focuses on the views and experiences of early years practitioners and primary school teachers who work directly with these children. It develops our understanding of issues arising in the transitions young children are making between their home accommodation and their educational settings. Key themes of this stage of the research included training in cultural sensitivity for teachers and practitioners, induction programmes for refugee children, identification and exploration of specific educational needs, language supports and collaboration between education settings and other supports for young refugee children as well as their interaction with parents.
This research is timely given the introduction of the ECCE scheme in 2010 providing universal free access to pre-school for all children from 3-5 years of age. This development acknowledges the importance of early years education for all children as a foundation for their full participation in education, formation of peer relationships and inclusion in society more generally. Preliminary results indicate that the early years sectors appears to be more proactive in responding to the needs of asylum seeking children and their families than the more formal primary school sector, which children generally enter from age five. It also indicates that current austerity measures are limiting the capacity of both sectors, but particularly the primary sector, in responding to the specific language and educational needs of asylum seeking children.