Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides a free year of early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. In general, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months on 1 September of the year that they will be starting. The upper age limit can be extended in some cases – see ‘Rules’ below. The State pays a capitation fee to participating playschools and day-care services.
In return, they provide a pre-school service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks In general; children only qualify for ECCE in one school year. However, a child who has been assessed as having a disability may be able to spread their free pre-school year over 2 years. Eligible age range In general, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 7 months on 1 September of the year that they will be starting.
This means that children born between 2 February 2008 and 30 June 2009 (both these dates included) are eligible to take part in the scheme for the school year 2012/2013. For the year starting in September 2013, children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 (both these dates included) will be eligible. Exemptions from age limit If your child is over the eligibility age requirement due to special needs they may be able to get an exemption from the upper age limit for the ECCE Scheme.
You should write to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs seeking an exemption from the age limit. If your local primary school’s entry age policy requires children to be aged over 5 years and 6 months before starting school, you can also apply to the Department for an exemption from the upper age limit. You should send your application for an exemption as soon as possible. How the ECCE scheme is provided The pattern of hours of free pre-school education depends on the type of service that your child attends and the weekly pattern that the service operates.
The various types of service are described in our document on childcare options. Sessional services If your child attends a half-day or “sessional” service, such as a playschool, naionra, Montessori or parent and toddler group, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, over 38 weeks. If your child attends for more than 3 hours, you will be charged for the extra time. If your child’s sessional service cannot open for 5 days a week, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 3 hours and 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, over 41 weeks.
This only applies to services which have already been granted permission to run their service over 41 weeks. Day-care services If your child attends a full-time or part-time day-care service, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 3 hours per day over 38 weeks. If your child attends for longer than this each day, you will be charged for the extra time. You will also be charged for the extra number of weeks attended Content and quality of service
Childcare services taking part in the ECCE scheme must provide an appropriate pre-school educational programme which adheres to the principles of Siolta, the national framework for early years care and education. Siolta co-ordinators and staff of the local City/County Childcare Committee (CCC) will support participating services with assistive visits and advice. There are general terms and conditions for the ECCE scheme and a leaflet for parents on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Children with special needs If your child has been assessed as having a disability and would benefit from attending pre-school for 2/3 days a week rather than 5 days each week, they can be allowed to spread their free pre-school year over a 2-year period. For example, a child with special needs may attend a pre-school service for 2 days per week in the first year and 3 days per week in the subsequent year. Rates There is no charge to parents for the playschool or day-care hours provided under the ECCE scheme.
The State capitation fee pays the playschool or day-care service to provide these ECCE hours. However, if your child attends for extra hours, you will have to pay for these extra hours in the normal way. A service may charge parents for extra activities. However, these must be optional and the service must provide other appropriate activities to children who don’t take part in the optional activity being charged for. Capitation rates for service providers For providers of day-care and sessional services, the weekly capitation fee is generally €62. 0 over 38 weeks. Day-care and sessional playschools with more highly qualified staff may be able to qualify for a higher capitation fee of €73 per week over 38 weeks. How to apply To get a place for your child, apply to a participating playschool or day-care centre. You can get a list of participating services from your local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC). You will need to provide a copy of your child's birth certificate or passport and PPS number.