On Sunday June 10th , 2018 I had the privilege of travelling to San Miniato , Italy in my capacity as an Early Childhood Care and Education Teacher with Kerry College of Further Education, with a group of 15 like-minded individuals from the four provinces of Ireland ,on the Early Childhood Ireland, Erasmus+ Léargas Study Trip in pursuit of international perspectives on quality within the Early Years Education Sector . Our host Barbara at La Bogetta Di Gepetto afforded us the opportunity to visit three unique Early Years settings for children 0-3 years old. The image of the child as a protagonist of learning and a competent being is at the heart of the San Miniato approach . Vertical grouping of children from babies to 3 years old is the norm . Children are active agents in their learning and the oldest children support the development of the youngest children in an almost ‘familial’ way . Early Years Educators in Italy must have a minimum qualification of a 3 year Degree to work with children aged 0-3 years. In contrast Educators of the 3-6 years olds Pre-school children are required to have a 5 year degree , this enables the educators to teach children up to age 11 within the Primary School System.
Similar to Irish culture , the family is at the heart of our traditions and theirs. The Early Years Education system in San Miniato not only values families , it also embraces and includes families in the activities in the centre. The parents attend workshops and create artefacts for display in the setting , they provide natural materials and resources for use within the setting and are the actors in the end of year dramatization of popular stories within the centres. Children are supported to engage in meaningful indoor and outdoor activities , predominantly child led . The use of natural materials within the settings afforded the opportunity of rich open ended activities in which the child led the way both individually and cooperatively . Their unique journey within the service is recorded in individual diaries from the moment of entry to the service until the child transitions to pre-school at the age of 3 . Interestingly when children enter pre-school at the age 3 , classes are segregated by age , this is different to the vertical grouping within our pre-schools and to our Aistear Curriculum, and perhaps in this regard our way is better .