Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Department of Health and Children
Question 457: To ask the Minister for Health and Children if he will change the early child care education regulations to allow community playschools to take on children on a reduced number of days in the week. [38249/09]
Barry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the free Preschool Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which will be introduced in January 2010. The objective of the ECCE scheme, is to provide all qualifying children with a full year of preschool early education in the year before they commence primary school. A regular pattern of preschool attendance, for periods up to 15 hours each week, is in line with international practice in this area, and is currently the norm for the majority of sessional playschool services operating in the State and availed of by parents who can afford to pay.
The scheme recognises that some sessional playschool services accommodate a greater number of children than they have daily places for. To accommodate these services and the children attending them during the introductory period in January to August 2010, transitional arrangements will be allowed. Services in this category will receive a capitation grant set by reference to the number of children attending each day rather than the total number of children in a week. However, as I have stated, the objective of the scheme is to provide all qualifying children with a full year of preschool early education and the transitional arrangements will not extend beyond September 2010 when the first full year of the scheme comes into effect.