I will write in more detail about Childcare in Ireland but for now I want to make sure that if you live in Ireland, you are aware of this scheme, and how you can avail of it!
What is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Careand Education (ECCE)?
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 is open to all children aged between 3years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September
To avail of the free pre-school year in January 2010, children must have been born between
2 February 2005 and 30 June 2006.
To avail of the year in September 2010, children must have been bornbetween 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007.
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 Educational Board (IMEB).All of these are eligible to apply to participate in the
scheme. A list of those accepted under the scheme will be available for parents from their local City and
County Childcare Committee from October 2009.Parents can contact listed services in their area at
that time to arrange for enrolment. If your child is already attending a pre-school service, or will be from
September 2009, whether it is a playschool or a full or part-time daycare service, you can also ask the serviceprovider if they plan to participate in the scheme.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 developmentally delayed.
How is the Pre-School Year funded?
Services participating in the scheme will be paid a capitation fee 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. While the pre-school year will normally
commence in September of each year, a shorter period will apply for those attending from January
How will the Pre-School Year be provided?
Children attending a full or part-time service will normally receive pre-school year sessions for 2 hours
15 minutes a day, 5 days a week over 50 weeks. To facilitate parents whose children attend a full or part-
time service for only 3 days a week, the service may provide 3 daily sessions of 3 hours 45 minutes each
week. The weekly capitation fee in these cases will beE48.50. Children availing of the free pre-school year
during January to August 2010 will receive 34 rather than 50 weeks of free pre-school.
Children attending a sessional playschool service,typically provided for about 3 hours each day, will
normally receive pre-school year sessions for 3 hoursa day, 5 days a week over 38 weeks. Sessional
playschool services which are unable to open 5days a week, can apply to provide the pre-school
year in the form of 3 hours 30 minutes a day, 4days a week over 41 weeks. Children availing of
the free pre-school year during January to June2010 will receive 23 rather than 38 weeks of free
pre-school. The weekly capitation fee in these cases will be E64.50.
Some sessional playschools may choose to open for 50 weeks in the year rather than 38, in which
case they will provide daily sessions of 2 hours 15minutes, and full or part-time services may choose
to also provide sessional playschool services in which case the 38 week model will apply.
Will parents have to pay additional charges to the service for the freePre-School Year?
No, services which participate in the scheme must provide the pre-school year free to parents. A
service may charge parents for additional services as long as (a) these are provided on an optional
basis and (b) appropriate programme based activities are provided to children not participating
in an optional activity.
For example, a service can offer an additional activity such as music or dance which parents can
choose to avail of for a charge. If they do not wish to avail of this activity, their child must continue
to be provided with an appropriate alternative activity. Services can also charge for hours which
are additional to the free pre-school provisione.g. if a child is in a full-day service for 10 hours,
a parent should expect to pay for the 7 hours, 45minutes per day which are not free. An additional
30 minutes per day, which would be charged for,may be offered to a child in a sessional playschool.
Outings, birthday parties, snacks, etc can also becharged for, provided they are optional for parents.
The deadline for parents to register with a provider for the ECCE scheme was January 13th 2010 but Barry Andrews, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has extended the deadline for parents to January 20th. The the deadline for childcare providers to return the forms to the department is now January 29.
So get your skates on before you have missed your chance!