Early Years educators are invited to attend a meeting of the SIPTU ‘Big Start’ campaign for better and affordable childcare in Monksland Community Centre, Athlone on 7.00 p.m. on Tuesday, 7th March. The meeting will focus on the lack of State funding for the sector, the issue of low-pay for workers and developing a network to campaign for improvements. In attendance will be Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion, who is her party’s spokesperson on childcare. Kathleen is also a member of the Oireachtas Committee for Children and Youth Affairs. On behalf of the Oireachtas Committee she is compiling a report for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, on issues surrounding childcare provision in Ireland. SIPTU Organiser and Big Start campaign co-ordinator, Annette Carpenter, said: “The Big Start campaign brings together Early Years educators, providers and parents to push for better childcare services. It is focused on transforming the Early Years sector so that it is of a high quality and affordable for parents. To achieve this, Early Years education must be delivered by professionals who are valued for their contribution to society, which is educating and developing our children during the most influential years of their lives. “Our key message is that to deliver quality Early Years’ services for our children, we need to attract and retain qualified and competent educators in the sector. This can only be achieved if the qualifications and experience of these professionals are recognised with appropriate pay and conditions of employment. This necessitates adequate investment by the State in the sector.”   She added: “It is of the utmost importance that we get the issues that matter to workers and providers in the sector into the report being complied by Kathleen Funchion. It is hoped that as many people as possible with a concern in the future of Early Years education will attend the upcoming meeting.” For further information on the Big Start campaign see www.bigstart.ie or visit the Big Start Campaign Facebook page.