Examples of How Expansion of ECCE Scheme Will Work

The following are examples taken from Early Childhood Ireland’s Briefing of Childcare Related Changed in Budget 2016.

Early Childhood Ireland understand that:

  • The ‘free pre-school year’ has been extended to allow children take up a place from when they are 3 years old up until they are either 5 ½ years old or they begin primary school.
  • Children will be able to enrol at 3 points throughout the year September, January and April.
  • The free pre-school year will continue to run on a 38-week basis.
  • The total amount of weeks a child is entitled to will depend on their date of birth.
  • This table (from DCYA) sets out the average number of weeks preschool according to the child’s date of birth:



A child who turns 3 years old in January can enrol for their free preschool place in April. They will avail of this place from April to June, totalling 12 weeks.

The child returns in September until June the following year, totalling 38 weeks. The child can begin primary school the following September at 4 years old, meaning they have received 50 weeks of free pre-school education, or opt for another preschool year.

If the child returns to preschool again they will avail of another 38 weeks from September to June. In this example the child will have received 88 weeks free pre-school education.

  • The free pre-school capitation grant will be restored to €64.50 per week and €75 per week for those qualifying for the higher capitation.
  • Currently 67,000 children avail of the free pre-school year and it is estimated 127,000 children will benefit from free pre-school in a given year.
  • The extension of the ‘free preschool year’ will come into effect from September 2016.

A common query that the Department has received is as follows: “My child is eligible for ECCE this year but as I don’t intend on him/her starting primary school until September 2017 I was waiting until September 2016 to use the ECCE entitlement. If I register my child for the ECCE Programme now will s/he also be eligible for ECCE for the 2016/17 Programme year?”

The answer to this is as follows:

  • Children who were aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 7 months in September this year (Born between 2nd February 2011 and 30th June 2012 inclusive) are eligible for late entry into this year’s ECCE programme where places are available. These children will be able to continue in the programme in September 2016 – once they are not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the current pre-school year (i.e. June 2017)
  • The change announced in Budget 2016 means that, from September 2016, children will be able to register for free pre-school when they are aged 3, and will be able to remain in pre-school until they make the transition to primary school (provided they are not older 5 years 6 months at the end of the pre-school year i.e. the end of June).
  • The change to the pre-school programme announced in yesterday’s budget take effect from September 2016.
  • Children who are currently enrolled for the free pre-school programme (i.e. on the basis of the eligibility criteria which applied in September this year) will be able to continue in the programme in September 2016 – once they are not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of that pre-school year i.e. June 2017)
  • From September 2016 the minimum enrolment age for free pre-school is age 3.

In addition, there are some fundamental issues which must be addressed in order to ensure the success of the ECCE and how it fits with other childcare provision:

  • How the capacity of the sector can be built to provide the additional free preschool places, including the infrastructure, the number of qualified early childhood educators and ensuring the quality of the setting.
  • How we can ensure that highly qualified early childhood educators remain in the sector, given the limitations imposed by a 38-week year.
  • How the development of ECCE can contribute to the development of sustainable models of provision for all age groups, including for under 3’s and after-school provision.

Early Childhood Ireland will be working closely with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to contribute to shaping the ECCE, as set out above