Síolta and Aistear


Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education, was developed by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

Síolta is designed to define, assess and support the improvement of quality across all aspects of practice in early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings where children aged birth to six years are present. These settings include:

Full and Part-time Daycare

Sessional services
Infant classes in primary schools

Síolta is comprised of three distinct but interrelated elements: 

The 12 Principles provide the overall vision of the Framework, while the 16 Standards and 75 Components allow for the practical application of this vision across all aspects of ECCE practice.

16 Síolta Standards:

Standard 1: Rights of the child

Standard 2: Environments

Standard 3: Parents and Families

Standard 4: Consultation

Standard 5: Interactions

Standard 6: Play

Standard 7: Curriculum

Standard 8: Planning and Evaluation

Standard 9: Health and Welfare

Standard 10: Organisation

Standard 11: Professional Practice

Standard 12: Communication

Standard 13: Transitions

Standard 14: Identity and Belonging

Standard 15: Legislation and Regulation

Standard 16: Community Involvement

These core elements of Síolta are set out in detail in each of the Síolta user manuals

National Síolta Aistear Initiative

The National Síolta Aistear Initiative has been developed to provide central support and coordination of Síolta and Aistear implementation across the early childhood sector.

The initiative has two strands. The first will focus on Síolta, including the introduction of Síolta awareness raising workshops and the expansion of the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP).

The second strand relates to Aistear, and will see the development of workshops and coaching to support practitioners to use Aistear in their setting.


Aistear is the National Curriculum Framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. The word Aistear is the Irish word for ‘journey’ and was chosen because early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys.

The Aistear framework can be used as a guide in planning holistic learning experiences in sessional, full and part-time day care settings, infant classes in primary schools and childminding services. It can also be used by parents in children’s own homes.

Aistear describes learning and development through four interconnected themes:

Identity and Belonging
Exploring and Thinking For more information:

Síolta and Aistear: Similarities and Differences

An audit of Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework and Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education was carried out jointly by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) which developed Síolta on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

The audit, which was published in 2009, helps to show how Aistear and Síolta can be used together to support the development of early childhood practice across the variety of settings in Ireland. It does this by:

identifying links between the principles underpinning each framework;
outlining the different emphases of Aistear and Síolta; and
showing how using the two frameworks together can enrich children’s experiences.

The Aistear Síolta Practice Guide was developed by NCCA to support Early Childhood Practitioners, Childminders, Teachers and Parents in using both Aistear and Síolta framework to improve the quality of environments and experiences for children birth – 6 years.

Aistear Síolta Practice Guide 

The purpose of the Practice Guide is to support practitioners in using Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (2009a) and Síolta, The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (2006) together to develop the quality of their curriculum and in doing so, to better support children’s learning and development.

The Practice Guide includes a range of resources to help practitioners to critically reflect on their curriculum and to identify what works well. Additionally, the resources can help practitioners to identify priorities for development and to plan actions for positive change. In this way, the Practice Guide can be used for on-going review, development and improvement by individual practitioners, practitioners working together and by practitioners supported by a mentor. Early Childhood Specialists working with Better Start, the National Early Years Quality Development Service will use the Practice Guide as they work with settings.

While the Practice Guide has been developed primarily for practitioners/stiúrthóirí working in part and full-time daycare and sessional settings including naíonraí1 and Early Start Units in primary schools, others such as childminders, parents, early childhood students, trainers and lecturers might also find some of the materials useful.