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Free Preschool Year - ECCE

The Early Childhood Care and Education

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. Children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over 3 years and not older than 5 and a half years.

The State pays a capitation fee directly to participating playschools and daycare 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.

Eligibility 
As of September 2016, children have been able to start ECCE when they reached 3 years of age and continue until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the pre-school year). 

To avail of the scheme as soon as possible once your child reaches 3 years of age, children will be able to enroll in pre-school at 3 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.

How ECCE works for children in part time childcare.
If your 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 the school year. 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 the school year. This only applies to services which have already been granted permission to run their service over the school year.

How ECCE works for children in full time childcare.
If your child attends a full-time or part-time daycare service, the normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 3 hours per day over the school year. 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

Availability of places

As providers are limited to the number of children they can enrol it is important to book early. Finding a school that will take an enrolment in January or April can be harder to find as many places are booked up from the previous September for the year.

How to apply for a place
To get a place for your child you need to apply directly to a participating school/creche. You can find participating services on Childcare.ie or use our quick 'Find an ecce place' form and we will send your details to all services in you chosen area.

To complete your booking you will need to provide a copy of your child's birth certificate or passport and your child's PPS Number

To check when your child is eligible for an ECCE place please enter their date of birth

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