The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, was introduced in January 2010.
The introduction of the free pre-school year is a major development in the area of early childhood care and education. As a universal scheme, it is hoped that all children will be able to benefit from a pre-school place in this highly important developmental year before they commence national school. Children will be eligible if they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September each year.
Services participating in the scheme will be paid a capitation fee for each eligible child enrolled. In return, services will be required to provide a free pre-school year of appropriate programme based activities in early childhood care and education (ECCE). The pre-school year will normally commence in September of each year.
Applicants can participate in the scheme on the basis of a 38 week per year (183 days) model, running from September to June.
The 38 week model will require provision of 3 hours per day for five days a week and, in return, the service will receive a weekly capitation fee of €62.50. Where, for good reason, a sessional playschool service cannot operate for 5 days a week, consideration may be given to allowing it to participate on the basis of providing 3 hours 30 minutes per day, four days a week over 41 weeks (157 days). A higher capitation fee of €73 is payable to pre-school service providers where all the pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school service hold a nationally accredited major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and where all the pre-school assistants in the service hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at level 5 on the NFQ or its equivalent.
While services must offer the pre-school provision free to parents in return for the applicable capitation fee, they may charge parents for optional additions providing they inform parents that any such charges are optional and appropriate programme based activities are provided to children not participating in an optional activity.
Budget Announcement 2016
ECCE 2016 - Frequently Asked Questions
On the 13th October 2015 the DCYA announced an extension to the Free Preschool Year. From September 2016, all children will be able to access their free preschool year when they turn 3 years of age and continue to avail of preschool education until they turn 5 and 6 months or until they start Primary School.
Full details of the changes are available on the DCYA website. Please click here for more information.
Qualification Requirements 31st December 2016
From 31st December 2016, the pre-school leaders in ALL services participating in the ECCE programme will be required to hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 6 on the NFQ, and all other staff working with children in the service will be required to hold a certification for a major award in the childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the NFQ.
Age criteria for ECCE
Update October 2015