What is Aistear?

Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework
Information for primary schools
Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework was published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at in October 2009. The information below provides details about what Aistear is, who it is for and how it might be used by primary school teachers to support children’s learning and development.
What is Aistear?
Aistear is the new curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. It gives information to help plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners. Aistear describes the types of learning that are important for children in their early years, and offers ideas and suggestions for how this learning might be nurtured. The Framework also provides guidelines on aspects of early childhood practice.
Who is Aistear for?
Aistear is for practitioners and parents. The term ‘practitioner’ refers to all those working in a specialised manner with children. This includes teachers working with young children in primary schools. Aistear can be used in the range of early childhood settings in Ireland including:

  • primary schools – mainstream and special schools
  • childminding settings
  • full and part-time daycare settings
  • sessional services
  • children’s own homes.

What is in Aistear?
Aistear is based on 12 broad principles1. Many of these are similar to the principles in the Primary School Curriculum (1999) with some additional ones, for example, a principle on learning through play and one on children as citizens. Each principle is presented using a short theoretical statement which is then explained from the child’s perspective. Many of Aistear’s principles are also similar to those in Síolta, The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (2006).
Aistear uses four themes to outline children’s learning and development. These themes connect and overlap with each other:

  • Well-being
  • Identity and Belonging
  • Communicating
  • Exploring and Thinking.

1 The principles come from national and international research on early childhood education. Much of the research used to develop Aistear is summarised in four papers which can be downloaded at

Guidelines offer support in using Aistear’s principles and themes in working with children. These guidelines describe good practice in

  • building partnerships between parents and practitioners
  • learning and developing through interactions
  • learning and developing through play
  • supporting learning and development through assessment.

A User Guide gives practical information on how Aistear can be used in various settings including pre-schools and infant classrooms.
Does Aistear have the same subjects and curriculum areas as the Infant Curriculum?
No. Aistear uses the themes Well-being, Identity and Belonging, Communicating, and Exploring and Thinking to present the content of children’s learning and development. Each theme connects with most if not all of the subjects in the Infant Curriculum.

Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework

Taken from

December’s Theme – The Toy Shop
 January’s Theme – The Café


 February and March’s Theme – The Pet Shop
 April’s Theme – The Hairdresser
May’s Theme – The Doctor’s Surgery
 June’s Theme – The Clothes Shop