Vanessa Biléu and her husband, João Carlos de Sousa, had the idea of an online journal for creches when she was working as a pre-school teacher.
The couple was living in Galway, and during their daily walk Ms Biléu would share her frustration at the amount of paperwork that pre-school teachers had to do.
Instead of spending so much time with paperwork, teachers could spend that time helping the children to develop and to learn.
Ms Biléu began working on a solution with Mr de Sousa, who is a software engineer.
Pre-schools use a chart on which the teachers record each child’s daily routine, including meals, naps, and other activities.
Ms Biléu wanted to reproduce that chart online, so that much of the documentation could be automated, freeing up valuable learning time.
By using ChildDiary, teachers can save up to 22 hours a month on paperwork, the couple claims.
One of the most important functions of the platform is to encourage and facilitate parental participation in the child’s development.
Designed for providers of care to children up to five years, ChildDiary allows parents and families to have a connection with their child’s day.
Mr de Sousa describes it as “like a private Facebook, where the teachers can add photographs, videos, and notes to each child’s portfolio.”
Using the app, parents can log in from their phone at the office to access their child’s portfolio and see what’s happening during the day, in real time.
However, he says that ChildDiary is not merely a technical solution. The platform has been developed with the insight of Ms Bileu’s own experience.
While there are many ways to solve the same problem, having a pre-school teacher involved from the start has helped ChildDiary develop a unique solution and allows it to stand out from its competitors, he says.
Ms Biléu was able to develop it into the ‘why’ he says: “Why is this important? Why do we need to do this? How can we make it better?”
The pre-school national curriculum, Aistear, and Montessori methods have been integrated into the platform, which makes it easier for pre-schools to fulfil the State requirements.
Ms Bileu, who has studied early childhood education, realised that much of the knowledge that pre-school teachers have is instinctual.
“For example, when a child picks up a pen, they show them how to hold it correctly. It’s the same with walking, talking, being social. All of that knowledge is inside the teacher’s head.”
What ChildDiary is trying to do is “mimic” what teachers do, in order to incorporate that knowledge into the platform and help them to plan each child’s development, Mr de Sousa says.
Teachers can use ChildDiary on their phone or tablet, as an app or on a PC. In many creches, there is a tablet in each room, Mr de Sousa says.
Childcare workers can, for instance, take photographs or start recording their observations on the tablet, and finish their work on the computer in the office, later.
The platform is available in English and Portuguese, and Mr de Sousa says the software is set up so that additional languages can easily be added.
There are two main price packages; €2.50, per child, per month, or €3.69, per child, per month.
The couple took part in the NDRC Female Founders pre-accelerator programme in 2016.
Having received funding from Enterprise Ireland and NDRC, ChildDiary is now looking at raising a second round of investment.
With 45 childcare providers — including Wee Care, in Dublin — using the platform since its launch in Ireland, last year, ChildDiary is currently expanding in Portugal, where it has 15 users.
The platform has already one user outside of Europe, in Mozambique, where Portuguese is spoken.
There are plans to move into the Spanish market. Mr de Sousa says that the culture of childcare in Spain is similar to Portugal, where it is common for children to attend creche full-time from the age of three months. One of the reasons is that quality childcare is much more affordable, he says.
He says ChildDiary is not just a business. “We are doing this because we want to help every child to reach their potential. That’s the goal.”
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