Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

EECERA 2009, Nineteenth European Conference on the Quality of Early Childhood Education. 26th August - 29th August 2009. Palais des Congrès of the European Union, Strasbourg, France.


The Irish government have invested considerably in the broad early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector over the last decade. However, a distinction persists within Irish policy between childcare and early education, both structurally and conceptually. Early education frequently refers to intervention based pre-school services; conversely childcare frequently refers to the broad spectrum of care services for 0-12 year olds, from family based child care through to centre-based provision (Hayes & Bradley, 2006; NESF, 2005; OECD, 2004). As a result of this, ‘early childhood services in Ireland are fractured across the welfare (childcare) and educational (early education) domains and … targeted in nature’(Hayes, 2008, p. 33). The National Children’s Strategy marked ‘the beginning of a shift towards using rights-based language in policy development … by strongly reflecting the UNCRC’ (Hayes, 2002, p. 49). The ambitious language of Irish ECEC policy documents is not always realised in policy implementation, which leads to a tendency toward rhetoric. Using a children’s rights lens this paper reports on the preliminary findings of a research study which has sampled these policy documents to analyse the extent to which they consider children and are rights-based from a linguistic perspective. A critical discourse analysis (CDA), which involves thorough analysis of the linguistic structure of documents alongside wider consideration of the socio-political culture in which they were created, allows us to find ‘ways into texts’ (Pennycook, 2008). Consequently, this paper aims to use CDA to locate Irish ECEC policy, particularly it’s approach to ‘children’s rights’, in terms of language and ideology.