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.