The Free Pre-school Year in Early Childhood Care and Education
(The ECCE Year)
The ECCE is a new scheme designed to give children access to a free Pre-school Year of appropriate programme-based activities in the year before they start primary school.
Participation in a pre-school programme provides children with their first formal experience of early learning, the starting-point of their educational and social development outside the home.
Children who avail of pre-school are more likely to be ready for school and a formal learning and social environment.
Will my child be eligible?
The ECCE Scheme is open to all children aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months at any stage during the September of each pre-school year (i.e. in practice, this includes all children of at least 3 years, 2 months and 1 day old on 1st September, but under 4 years, 7 months of age on that date).
To avail of the year in September 2012, children must have been born between 2 February 2008 and 30 June 2009.
Exceptions may be allowed where a child is verified as having Special Needs which make a later starting date appropriate, or where local primary school enrolment policies require (i.e. rather than allow) a later enrolment date.
Where can I enrol my child for the free Pre-school Year?
There are nearly 5,000 pre-school services notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Education Board (IMEB).
All of these are eligible to apply to participate in the scheme. A list of those accepted under the scheme has been made available for parents from their local City and County Childcare Committee from October 2009.
There may be services in your area that are offering a pre-school service but are not participating in the ECCE Scheme. You can avail of this provision at your own expense. Parents can contact listed services in their area at that time to arrange for enrolment.
The upper age limit of 4 years 6 months will be extended where a child cannot start primary school until s/he is more than 5 years 6 months of age, due to either the enrolment policy of the local schools or having been assessed as having developmental delays.
Booking a Place
If you have identified a suitable pre-school service which is participating in the ECCE scheme you should then find out if they have places available for you to book for September.
The scheme entitles you to up to 15 hours per week (over a period of 38 weeks) or 11.5 hours (over a period of 50 weeks). However, before booking a place you should be clear about the number of days available to you as most pre-school services would have limited places.
How is the Pre-school Year funded?
Services participating in the scheme will be paid a capitation fee by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) for each qualifying child enrolled. In return, the service will be required to provide an appropriate programme of activities in early childhood care and education (ECCE) which will be free to parents.