East Antrim celebrates 50 years of improving outcomes for children

A half century of the Early Years organisation has been marked with a special celebration and book launch in east Antrim.

The service for young children (formerly NIPPA) has made the journey from a small community initiative begun by a group of ‘founding mothers’ in 1965 to an organisation with an international reputation, delivering services to over 30,000 families across Northern Ireland.

Larne/Carrickfergus/Newtownabbey Branch was joined by chief executive officer Siobhan Fitzpatrick CBE and Roy Beggs MLA at Humpty Dumpty Preschool, Carrickfergus, for the milestone event.

The Early Years Branch offers a forum for participants across the area to come together, discuss important issues, network and access information and training. It provides the bridge between members locally and the regional Early Years Council.

Commissioned by the organisation for the golden anniversary, ‘Early Years, Crossing Boundaries: 50 Years of Ambition For Young Children’, by William Beattie Smith, details the history and looks at the future of Early Years locally, regionally and internationally.

In 2014 the Chief Inspector for Education reported that ‘to compete in a global economy, Northern Ireland must increase the pace of change for improving the outcomes for all our children and young people’.

The author of Crossing Boundaries notes: “The quest for better outcomes from schools must include consideration of alternative approaches to education for all age groups including those developed and refined within the early years movement.

“Schools have much to learn from the movement’s recognition of the importance of play and imagination; the fact that most of children’s learning takes place outside of school; its child-centred rights-based approach, building on children’s attributes and interests rather than correcting their perceived deficiencies; and its community development ethos.”

Siobhan Fitzpatrick delivered a presentation to early years practitioners within the Larne, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey at the celebration evening.

She said: “We are very proud to be launching this book here in Carrickfergus in this our fiftieth year and to celebrate the contributions of thousands of volunteers, staff and parents who have made a passionate contribution to the early years movement locally in the Larne, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey Branch area and across Northern Ireland.”

All Early Years members will receive a free copy of this publication but anyone wishing to purchase a copy can do so at a cost of £15 through the website www.early-year.org

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