The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides a free year of early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. In general, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months on 1 September of the year that they will be starting. The upper age limit can be extended in some cases – see ‘Rules’ below.
The State pays a capitation fee to participating preschools. In return, they provide a preschool service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks. In general, children only qualify for ECCE in one school year. However, a child who has been assessed as having a disability may be able to spread their free preschool year over 2 years.
Eligible age range
In general, children are eligible for the ECCE 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. This means that children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 (both these dates included) are eligible to take part in the scheme for the school year 2013 - 2014. For the year starting in September 2014, children born between 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011 (both these dates included) will be eligible.
Exemptions from age limit
If your child is over the eligibility age requirement due to special needs they may be able to get an exemption from the upper age limit for the ECCE Scheme. You should write to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs seeking an exemption from the age limit. If your local primary school’s entry age policy requires children to be aged over 5 years and 6 months before starting school, you can also apply to the Department for an exemption from the upper age limit. You should send your application for an exemption as soon as possible. There are no exemptions to the lower age limit.
For more information contact the Department of Youth & Children's Affairs:
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
43-49 Mespil Road
Tel:(01) 647 3000
Fax:(01) 647 3101
Or visit the Citizens Information Service here.