Free Pre-School extended in Budget 2016
From September 2016 the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme will be extended . The changes mean that children will be able to start pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until they start primary school. (or reach 5 years 6 months) .
Currently, children between the age of 3 years, 2 months, and 4 years, 7 months, are eligible for a year’s free pre-school (a maximum of 38 weeks) . The age used is as at 1st September in the relevant pre-school year . The eligible child is entitled to one free pre-school year, which must be availed of in one continuous block (e.g. from September to June )
From September 2016 – children will be able to enrol in pre-school at three different points in the year – September, January and April.
On average, it is estimated that children will benefit from 23 additional weeks of free pre-school (or about a 60% increase in free pre-school entitlement).
a) A child becomes age 3 in August 2016, they can join the ECCE programme in September 2016 and can remain in pre-school until they choose to start school in either September 2017 or September 2018. (Under the current scheme they couldn’t go to free pre-school until Sept 2017)
b) A child becomes 3 in November 2016, they can join the scheme in January 2017 and stay until they start school in September 2018. (They wouldn’t be able to join until Sept 2017 under the current scheme)
c) A child reaches 3 in February 2017, they could join pre-school in April 2017 and stay in the ECCE programme until they start school in September 2018. (They would not be able to start until Sept 2017 under the current scheme)
This extension is estimated to cost an extra €47 million in 2016.
It seems that the pre-school providers were not consulted about these changes – and they have concerns about funding issues and extra admin costs. See http://www.acpireland.com/budget-2016.html