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The Irish Times 10/13/15   Early learning helps lives thrive in Dublin docklands


 

It’s lunchtime in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) and “the suits”, as the locals call them, are emerging from office blocks to enjoy the fading warmth of the autumn sun.

Half of the world’s top 50 banks and half of the top 20 insurance companies have bases here, according to the IFSC, which has extended downriver from the Custom House Docks, where it was set up 28 years ago. Meanwhile, the IT crowd have moved in on the other side of the Liffey, creating the so-called “Silicon Docks”.

Clusters of young professionals, with corporate swipe cards dangling from their necks, sit at tables outside restaurants, while others find a spot to eat takeaway lunches and relax with their smartphones.

In 20 years’ time, two-year-old Daisy Bolger-Montgomery may join their ranks in this hub of economic activity on her doorstep in the docklands. That she will, at least, be able to pitch in her CV with the best of them is what a community-based Early Learning Initiative (ELI) is trying to ensure.

Daisy and her mother, Sandy Bolger, are starting the second year of a two-year Parent Child Home Programme. It’s one element of the ELI at the docklands-based National College of Ireland and is designed to eliminate the disadvantage that many children growing up in the inner city face from day one of school.

But, as far as Daisy is concerned, it’s all about having fun when home visitor Michelle Moore comes twice a week for half an hour during term time. Most weeks “Shelley”, as Daisy calls her, brings a new book or toy for the little girl to keep and explore. She shows Bolger how to use it in interactions with her daughter and to further Daisy’s learning through conversation, reading and play.

“Everything is to do with building up the child’s confidence, their self-esteem,” says Moore, one of 25 home visitors trained and employed by the National College of Ireland to deliver the programme, with that number due to rise to more than 30 in the coming weeks. “We want them to feel when they are reading a book it is a good time, a happy time, and that will stay with them.”

Daisy absolutely loves it, Bolger confirms. “Shelley will explain [to me] the reason she is getting a toy or a book and how to progress on it, so I watch Shelley do it and then I do the rest.”

Home visitors, who receive five days’ training initially, work with about five families each and they also meet as a group every Monday for ongoing training and supervision. Just 15 families participated in the scheme’s first year, in 2008, but that has risen to 120 this year and there is a waiting list.

Please click here to read the full article on The Irish Times.

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