Avril McMonagle

Lead Consultant

Avril has dedicated her working life to early childhood care and education and possesses a diverse skills-set consisting of practical, academic and policy experience and expertise. She has a comprehensive understanding and working knowledge of the early childhood sector in Ireland from a variety of perspectives over the past 20 years.

Avril is an accomplished and respected expert in the field of early childhood care and education. She has consistently promoted a professional quality agenda for early childhood as a core component of her work over the years. The legacy of her work and being at the forefront of a range of pioneering initiatives to enhance early childhood education locally, regionally and nationally; is well evidenced.

Not least she worked as an Education Officer with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment as part of a four-person team responsible for the development of Aistear the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. This was the first curriculum framework for early childhood education in Ireland. She worked as Manager of Donegal County Childcare 2008-2018 bring forth and developing a range of legacy projects and initiatives to enhance the work of the early childhood sector locally and nationally.

Avril was awarded a State Appointment and served as the nominee of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the Council of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment from 2015-18.

She holds an MEd from Queens Graduate School of Education and a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies from Queens University Belfast. She fulfilled a lifelong ambition by setting up Meantóir in January 2009 and the company is going from strength to strength. Meantóir is currently part of The ACORNS Programme a peer-led network designed to support female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland.

Avril McMonagle Childcare
A Word from Avril

Over the years, my education and career has had a sustained and consistent focus on early childhood care and education. I have always possessed a clear understanding of the critical nature of early childhood – who we are now, how we cope with life, how we treat others and our vulnerabilities and self-image are all imprinted upon us in childhood. I love the quote ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’ … This philosophy has shaped my choice of third level education, the care of my own children (and now grandchildren), my career and myself as a person.

On a personal level, I feel that I can make a unique contribution to this role as I have experienced many of the perspectives of the various people who make up the early childhood sector. I have walked in the shoes of a mother working to gain professional qualifications to enter the workforce following child rearing commitments. I have been a mature student juggling study, family and work commitments. I have progressed from a ground up perspective and believe that I have worked hard to make a contribution to how we educate young children.

‘Meantóir’ is the next step on my journey – I am excited about the future, grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Career Summary

In her earlier career, Avril gained her practical experience and knowledge base by working directly with young children and managed a community based early childhood centre in Derry. She took the lead in applying for Peace and Reconciliation Funding and successfully developed a new, increased capacity early childhood centre. Working as the Project Manager for the new facility provided her with a wealth of community development and hands on experience.

Once qualified as an Early Years Specialist, Avril developed her training and mentoring proficiency through providing mentoring support, training facilitation, academic programme development and student assessment for adult learners in Northern Ireland.

Avril joined Donegal County Childcare as a Development Officer at a time when the infrastructure was being developed and alongside this development work, she quickly identified and addressed a gap for early childhood professional development. She subsequently developed and delivered a variety of training programmes for the early childhood workforce in Donegal and beyond.

Recognised for her expertise in early childhood, Avril joined the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment as part of a four-person team responsible for the development of Aistear the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, which was the first national curriculum framework for early childhood education in Ireland. Avril was also part of the research team on NCCA’s Early Childhood Portraiture Study which was the first piece of consultative research carried out with pre-school children in Ireland.

Following the completion of Aistear, Avril took up the role of Manager of Donegal County Childcare. In subsequent years, Avril’s vision, dedication and hard work, witnessed many achievements to support the early childhood sector locally and nationally.

A Leading Expert

Over the years, Avril’s vision, dedication and hard work earned her a reputation as an expert in her field. She has authored of a range of publications, articles and submissions to academic journals not least OMEP Ireland– An Leanbh Óg and Education Matters Yearbook – NUI Galway. She has also developed a range of academic modules for the Early Childhood Degree programmes and has participated on numerous academic programme review panels on both sides of the jurisdiction. Her range of in-house training and CPD programmes and publications are closely aligned to the national frameworks Síolta and Aistear. The most successful of these programmes is a 10-week training programme on meaningful assessment for early learning called ‘Building Pictures of Learning’ which she developed and authored. In addition, her educator’s handbook, entitled Professional Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education, remains in high demand and has been reprinted 3 times since its initial publication.

Avril’s expertise and presentation abilities was endorsed when she was peer selected to represent Childcare Committees Ireland as a County Expert at a Peer Review on the provision of quality early childhood services in Prague in November 2015, where she shared the progress Ireland had made in recent years.

Avril has also researched and presented a range of academic papers on early childhood education at national and international conferences including NEYAI Evaluation Conference, Mansion House, Dublin; CECDE’s International Conference at Dublin Castle; the European Early Childhood Education Research Association Conference in Prague, Czech Republic and the EECERA 16th Annual Conference on Democracy and Culture in Early Childhood Education in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Early Childhood Practice & Policy

• Through a state board appointment, Avril is currently the nominee of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the Council of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. The NCCA advises the Minister for Education and Skills on curriculum and assessment for early childhood education, primary and post-primary schools.

• Avril was the lead person in one of 11 national demonstration projects as part of the National Early Years Access Initiative, a three-year Government led initiative set to inform and influence early childhood policy in Ireland. This involved designing, implementing and evaluating a bespoke programme of professional development and mentoring supports to enable quality improvement in early childhood services participating on the project.

Avril held the lead role in the design, development and implementation of a bespoke initiative called The Professional Pedagogy Project (PPP). This was a framework of professional development and supports encompassing a training programme and a variety of follow-on mentoring supports aimed at enabling early childhood educators to make steady, quantifiable changes and improvements to their practice. The programme involved a baseline assessment of quality in the service and a range of performance measures to monitor progress along the way.

• Avril was the lead person in commissioning an independent research report on childcare for working families and implications for employment titled: ‘Supporting working families – Releasing a brake on economic growth’ launched in December 2013 by the then Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, TD. The proposal offered an examination of policy options to address childcare obstacles which may exist to increase employment and included a full cost benefit analysis. The report put forward key policy initiatives which could be undertaken to reduce barriers to employment arising from the cost of childcare for a targeted group of families and bears many similarities to the new Affordable Childcare Scheme. Avril co-presented the report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

• Avril has actively contributed to the development of child and family political strategy and policy in the form of Pre-Budget Submissions, Private Members Business, Policy discussion papers, Manifestos and advisory submissions on a cross party basis. She has delivered presentations to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children and delivered thematic presentations to cross- party Think-ins and information briefings.

• Avril is an active contributor to radio interviews and debates, press articles, news features, podcasts and voiceover commentary on issues including the cost of childcare and the impact on working families, child poverty, special educational needs and early childhood care and education. Avril acts as a strong voice for supports for children with special educational needs – successfully advocating against planned cuts to services for local children in Donegal.

Inis Eoghain Participants

CPD- Learning Stories & Planning for Children’s Interests Event

emergent curriculum course meantoir

CPD – Emergent Curriculum Course. April 2019