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Survey: shortcomings in ECCE Scheme

October 9, 2014


Survey points to shortcomings in ECCE (free preschool) scheme and need for increased capitation, inclusion of continuous professional development in the scheme and Special Needs Assistants

46% of crèches and preschools around the country indicated that their financial stability has  decreased since the introduction of the ECCE (free preschool) scheme and capitation rates for the scheme must be increased in the forthcoming budget before any consideration can be given to introducing a second year.

We conducted the survey in September 2014 to investigate the impact of the introduction of the ECCE scheme in January 2010 on its 3,400 member services across Ireland.  644 services (19%) completed the survey, the main findings of which showed that:

  • Pre-introduction of the ECCE scheme, 43% of services were charging between €65 and €100 per week for a sessional place.
  • €75 per week was the most commonly reported charge, with 20% of services charging this amount for a sessional place and a further 15% charging between €80 and €100. This amounts to a 17% drop in income year on year for services previously charging €75 per week.
  • The differences between counties were very apparent, with more densely populated areas charging more.   Cork, Dublin City, Fingal and Kildare were the highest charging areas, pointing to the different challenges experienced between urban and rural areas.
  • Despite a loss of income, 41% of respondents reported an increase in the amount of children attending their service since the introduction of the ECCE scheme.
  • 75% of respondents said that qualification levels of staff had increased since the introduction of ECCE, coinciding with the introduction of minimum qualifications for the sector.


According to Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland:

“There has been a lot of chatter about extending the ECCE scheme to 2 years which we would support, but this cannot happen until we get the first year right.

“For starters, this Government must reverse the cuts to the scheme made 2 years ago.  The basic capitation rate of €62.50 is not enough and must be increased to make services sustainable and in the interest of the quality experience of children.  How can we talk about improving quality, qualifications and the professionalization of the sector, when those delivering the service are forced to go on the dole over the summer months, as the capitation is only paid for 38 weeks of the year?

“Furthermore, quality is nurtured in any service through continuous professional development (CPD) which must become an integral part of this scheme.  Right now, not one minute of child free time is paid for within this ECCE scheme to cover training, parent meetings, planning, documentation or administration.

“Also, this scheme must be fully inclusive and available to all children.  Today there is a huge void for children with special needs, with no provision for SNAs within the scheme.  The earlier special needs are catered for the better, and we must start the provision of SNAs at preschool, not primary school.

“The need to develop a long term, sustainable and high quality early childhood education infrastructure is critical.  If our members are continually using reserves to cover the basics there will be an inevitable and negative impact on quality. There is also an issue that the prices charged in many areas are capped by the prevalence of unregulated childcare and there seems to be no appetite among policy makers to regulate childminding and that just isn’t good enough and we need strong leadership from the Government in this regard.

“The introduction of the ECCE scheme in January 2010 giving universal access to preschool was a groundbreaking new policy and, with a 95% participation rate, it is a good scheme, with potential to be great but that requires real investment and giving our children the priority they deserve.”



Further information:  Teresa Heeney 087 7671481 or Carmel Doyle 087 2473537


Editor’s note:

Early Childhood Ireland represents over 3,400 childcare professional members who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool and full daycare provision nationwide.  Its work includes quality enhancement, publications, advocacy, training, business support and information for a sector that employs over 24,000 people today.  Its pre-budget submission is available on

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