All you need to know about the ECCE scheme

What is the ECCE scheme?

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides a free year of early childhood care and education for children of preschool age. From September 2016, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over two and a half years and not older than five and a half years.

The State pays a capitation fee to participating playschools and daycare services. In return, services provide a free preschool service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set number of weeks.

When can my child take part?

From September 2016, children will be able to start ECCE when they reach two and a half years of age and continue until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are not older than five years and six months at the end of the pre-school year). This is an increase in the number of weeks previously available on the ECCE scheme. Children will be able to enroll in pre-school at three different points (September, January, and April) in the school year in order to access the scheme. The school year is normally from September to June.

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How much does ECCE cost?

If your child attends a half-day, such as a playschool, Montessori or baby and toddler group, the normal times for the free pre-school year is three hours a day, five days a week, over the school year. If your child attends for more than three hours, you will be charged for the extra time. You will also be charged for the extra number of weeks attended.

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If your child’s sessional service cannot open for five days a week, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is three hours and 30 minutes a day, four days a week, over the school year. This only applies to services which have already been granted permission to run their service over the school year.

To get a place for your child, apply to a participating playschool or daycare centre. You can get a list of participating services from your local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC).

You can also find a list of frequently asked questions on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website here.

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