Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Early Childhood Care and Education
85. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is only one intake per year for the ECCE scheme and that some children can only avail of one year due to their birth date; his plans to return to two intakes per year to ensure an equitable system; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48417/21]
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal free two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range.
The minimum eligibility age of 2 years and 8 months for the ECCE programme was chosen based on national experience and a review of international practice. It also had regard to the regulatory environment for early years education and care in this country and issues such as child development readiness and adult-child ratios.
Prior to September 2018 there were three entry points to ECCE. This lead to a situation where there was variation in the number of ECCE weeks a child could qualify for, ranging from between 61 and 88 weeks depending on the date of birth of the child. The introduction of a single entry point a aligned to the start of the primary school year ensured that all children could receive 2 full years of ECCE, or 76 weeks. This also ensures that all children can experience the full pre-school curriculum.
A single entry point has also streamlined the administration process for providers, making it easier for them to operate and budget for the programme year. In addition it has made it easier parents to secure places on the ECCE programme for their children.