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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone)

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone)

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Snippet Contents:

The Early Childhood and Education Programme (ECCE) programme was expanded from September 2016 so that children may start free pre-school from age 3, and can continue in free pre-school once the child is not older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the relevant pre-school year. Currently there are three different points in the year - September, January and April.
Under Budget 2018, the ECCE programme has been expanded further so that all eligible children can avail of a full two programme year. There will also only be one enrolment point each year (i.e September). However, I must advise the Deputy that these will not come into effect until September 2018.
An upper age limit in free pre-school was set by the Inter-Departmental Group on Future Investment on the advice of the Department of Education and Skills. Limiting the diversity in age ranges in primary school is considered to be generally in the best interest of children, in relation to peer interaction in junior infants, as well as other educational considerations.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs does its best to ensure, in so far as is possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for childcare funding under the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied in a fair manner. The rules for all the Department’s childcare schemes are clearly published to ensure transparency and consistent application. An essential component of the scheme’s rules is an eligibility date to ensure that the scheme can be administered and budgeted for in an appropriate manner.
For the programme year 2017/2018 parents may request an exemption from ECCE eligibility criteria under limited circumstances from my Department; specifically where a diagnosed special and/or medical need exists. This must be supported by a letter from a relevant medical specialist, recommending additional time in pre-school. However, please be aware that my Department is currently reviewing the overage exemption process. I would urge the parents of the child in question to contact my Department to enquire about such an exemption.