Aistear: the Early Childhood
Similarities and differences with the
Infant Level in the
Primary School Curriculum
Overview of session
• To identify priorities for children’s learning at the infant level in primary
• To compare these priorities with those in Aistear
• To highlight the key similarities and differences between Aistear and the
Activity: Priorities at infant level
Priorities in the Infant Curriculum
1. Discuss as a small group what you consider to be the priorities for
children’s learning at the infant level in primary school:
‒ What should children be able to do and know at the end of senior infants?
2. Agree 5 priorities across the curriculum.
3. Share these priorities with the larger group.
4. Agree on one set of priorities across the larger group.
Activity: Aistear’s themes
Aistear’s themes – priorities for children’s learning
1. The table sets out the four aims from each of Aistear’s themes. As a group,
assign each aim to what you consider is the relevant theme.
(Well-being = WB; Identity and Belonging = IB; Communicating = C;
Exploring and Thinking = ET)
2. Share the outcomes with the larger group.
3. Comment on how Aistear’s priorities compare with those of the Infant
A framework and a curriculum …
• A curriculum framework is … a scaffold or support
which helps adults to develop a curriculum for the
children in their setting.
• A curriculum is … [the set of] all the experiences, formal
and informal, planned and unplanned in the indoor and
outdoor environment, which contribute to children’s
learning and development.
(Principles and themes, 2009, p.54)
be strong psychologically and
be as healthy and fit as can be
be creative and spiritual
develop positive outlooks on
learning and on life
Theme: Identity and Belonging
• develop strong self-identities and feel
respected and affirmed as individuals
• have a sense of group identity where
links with their family and community
are acknowledged and extended
• express their rights and respect the
identity, rights and views of others
• see themselves as capable learners
• develop non-verbal communication
• use language with growing confidence
• make sense of their experiences
• express themselves creatively and
Theme: Exploring and Thinking
• develop increasingly complex strategies
for observing, thinking, exploring,
• use symbolic representation
• learn about and make sense of the world
• develop a positive image of themselves as
learners, and come to see themselves as
explorers and thinkers
Aistear and the Infant Curriculum
Synergy between the two ...
• Aistear builds on, extends and enriches the Infant Curriculum
• Share many principles of learning and development
• Prioritise the child’s uniqueness
Similarities alongside differences ...
HOW children are viewed as learners, and HOW learning happens and can be
supported in early childhood ...
• Principles concerning citizenship, play, adult’s role
The main differences
• presents learning and development through connected themes
• highlights the ‘equal’ importance of the four themes
• nurtures dispositions – how children approach learning
• describes a learning and development ‘destination’ for children - focuses on
• espouses ‘play’ as a teaching and learning methodology
• has no suggested timetable – highlights the integrated nature of children’s
• promotes a sharing of ‘power’ between children and the adult
• highlights professional autonomy for practitioners
(See Audit of Aistear and the Primary School Curriculum, NCCA, 2008)
And so, the big questions ...
1. To what extent does/can the Infant Curriculum support junior and senior
infant children in developing the dispositions, skills, values and attitudes,
and building the knowledge and understanding that Aistear highlights as
being critical in the twenty-first century?
2. What are the implications of Aistear for review and revision of the Infant
Curriculum as part of the Primary School Curriculum?
Some starting points for teachers
• Support for teachers in
using different types of play to support children’s learning across the
broadening the range of strategies for interacting with children to
extend their learning
building a bank of assessment methods, and using assessment to
progress learning (AfL)
involving parents to a greater extent in their children’s learning
Medium to long-term implications
A. Responding to the challenge of a lack of time (2005, 2008)
Review of literature on curriculum overload
Work with schools to represent the curriculum
Committee discussions and curriculum
Mapping work to curriculum
developments at Junior Cycle
B. Reviewing the Infant Curriculum
Working with teachers and children
in infant classrooms
Finding out what Aistear means for the
Find out more
National Council for Curriculum and
24 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
W: www.ncca.ie/earlylearning and