Expert insight: Early learning gives Dublin’s Docklands kids a chance

Half of the world’s top 50 banks and top 20 insurance companies have premises in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre, while IT businesses mushroom on the other side of the River Liffey in the area known as ‘Silicon Docks’.

For Docklands residents deprived of opportunity across generations, the nearby business bustle can seem a world away. Disadvantages that begin at pre-school age can determine expectations, and aspirations can wither on the vine.

Working for a change
Marie Boyne is a Home Visitor to three local families for the Parent Child Home Programme, part of the community-based Early Learning Initiative* (ELI) that is working for change. The Programme aims to work with children from disadvantaged areas, two years before their preschool year, nurturing learning skills during a pivotal period in cognitive development so that they enter full-time education with a chance to thrive.

Marie, who has a decade of experience as a crèche worker, is one of 20 Home Visitors making twice-weekly calls, spending vital one-to-one time with individual children and their parents. Her visits are designed to encourage interactive play, make reading fun, and work on the verbal skills that breed confidence. She needs no convincing that the National College of Ireland-run Programme works. Before she became a Home Visitor, her own son was a beneficiary.

“He was struggling with his language skills, and he would play alongside me, rather than with me,” she says. “I really noticed how his language took off and how he learned to play in an interactive way after we started on the Programme. All children are assessed by the Public Health Nurse before they go to primary school, and they noted a huge difference in him, and that meant that we got the right language therapy later on.”

Passing on her experience requires both skill and sensitivity. “People can be apprehensive about someone coming in, even if they know about the project is about. I’ve learned from my own experience that the programme is 100% there for you, so I like to get people to relax and speak to them on a normal level so that they get on board early on.” Read more