Written answers

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Early Childhood Care and Education

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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1096. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if an exception will be made for a child (details supplied) in County Mayo to allow them to avail of their entitlement of two years ECCE; if the supporting documentation in the form of medical evidence was examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4122/20]

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)
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The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a free, two year, universal pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range. A child must be aged 2 years and 8 months on or before 31 August in order to be eligible and can’t turn 5 years and 6 months during the programme year. There is no provision for a third year.

For some children with special or additional needs, where attending preschool five days a week is not feasible, there is a facility to apply for an overage exemption. This overage exemption allows them split two years over three years. It was initially introduced when there was only one year of ECCE and before the Access and Inclusion Model was introduced to ECCE, providing a range of supports to children with disabilities and the pre-school. The overage exemption is governed by three guiding principles as follows:

- The child not reaching 6 years of age during the exemption year to comply with the school staring age (as per Educational Welfare Act, 2000)

- A Letter of recommendation supplied from a specialist (NB: Not a GP/Public Health Nurse)

- ECCE Allocation taken-i.e. if a child has already availed of two years they will not be eligible.

My Department works jointly with the Department of Education and Skills with regard to matters such as this. The Department of Education and Skills endorses the policy approach that it is in children's best interest to enrol in primary school with their peers, and to transition to becoming a teenager with their peers. This was the finding of research commissioned jointly by both Departments in 2018 from the National Disability Authority (NDA) which was published in March 2019.

Parents who have concerns over their child’s transition to school should, in the first instance, discuss this with the school. They may also contact the National Council for Special Education for advice on available supports for their child.


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