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How to apply for the Free Pre-School Year
How to apply
The scheme is operated locally by the City and County childcare committees, who provide guidance for registering your child’s place.
Full details of the Scheme are available on the Department for Children and Youth Affairs website
In general, children are eligible for the 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. For example, for the year starting in September 2012, children born between 2nd February 2009 and 30th June 2010 (both these dates included) will be eligible.
The upper age limit can be extended in some cases and an application must be made to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for this. Children only qualify for the scheme 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. 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.
Also, if a local primary school’s entry age policy requires children to be aged over 5 years and 7 months before starting school, a parent/guardian can also apply to the Department for an exemption from the upper age limit.
Full details of the Scheme are available on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website
How the ECCE scheme is provided
The hours of free pre-school education depends on the type of service that a child attends and the weekly hours that the service operates.
If a child attends a half-day or “sessional” service, such as a playschool, naíonra, 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 a child attends for more than 3 hours, a charge for the extra time will occur.
If a child attends a full-time or part-time daycare service, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 2 hours and 15 minutes per day over 50 weeks. If a child attends for longer than this each day, there will be a charge for the extra time.
Early childhood services taking part in the ECCE scheme must provide an appropriate pre-school learning programme which adheres to the principles of Síolta, the National Framework for early years care and education.
Síolta co-ordinators will support participating services with assistive visits and advice. Childminders who have the necessary qualification to provide the pre-school programme and who are notified to the HSE are able to operate the Free Pre-school year. If you are a Childminder and interested in finding out more phone 01 287 8466.
Latest Changes to ECCE Scheme
• From September 2012, services participating in the ECCE programme will be required to provide the programme on the basis of 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, over 38 weeks.
• From September 2012, new staff ratios will apply in respect of the pre-school session element of services for service providers participating in the ECCE Programme. This will also affect the space ratios and sanitary accommodation requirements.
For up to date information on changes to the ECCE scheme view at