The Free Pre-School Year (ECCE Scheme) was introduced by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) in 2010 to ensure that all children have access to 1 year of  free pre-school.  Under the scheme eligible children are entitled to 183 days of free pre-school.  This is provided as 3hrs per day, 5 days per week for 38 weeks, in line with the primary school calendar.

The DCYA have set-up an age criteria for children.  For September 2015, children born between the 2nd February 2011 and the 30th June 2012 will qualify for the ECCE Scheme.  If your child is born after the 30th June 2012 you can use our ECCE Calculator to check when they will qualify.

For further information on the ECCE Scheme please refer to the ECCE Section of our website – ECCE Information

The Benefits of Pre-School for your Child

With the introduction of the free pre-school year attendance at Pre-School has become part of the norm for most children in the year before they start national school. There is mounting evidence to support the benefits of attending a high quality pre-school for all children. Neurobiology tells us that that while the fundamentals of the brain are in place from birth, early experiences interact with genes to shape the architecture of the child’s brain.

Pre-School is often the first exposure a child has to a world outside of their own family. It is developmentally challenging for children to leave the security of home and family and make the transition to a new setting, however the potential for growth presented by such an opportunity is considerable. Learning to cope successfully with transitions is a fundamental skill that children will draw on throughout their lives.

Good quality Pre-School Settings build children’s non-cognitive skills which influence their current and future learning. Skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, persistence and self-control set children up to succeed in society. Children learn to respect and love learning which leads to better attainment in school and reduces the likelihood of early school leaving.

Being part of a group helps the child to develop a positive sense of self, of who they are and how they belong. Pre-School’s that engage positively with families, help children to retain a sense of their home culture and values while giving them the skills necessary to thrive in the wider society. By their very nature children are social creatures, they learn from one another. In Pre-School children have access to a group of playmates of a similar age who may share their interests. They can challenge, negotiate and learn from one another – strengthening the social skills that will serve them well in later life.

At a time in their lives when children are particularly receptive to language, Pre-School exposes children to an even greater variety of language – with more people to talk with there are more opportunities open to children to develop their understanding and use of language. Pre-School activities assist children in building their vocabulary about subject matters that are relevant and meaningful to them. For children whose first language is not English or Irish, Pre-School is particularly beneficial as there are opportunities for children to hear the language being spoken in context that may not be available in the home.

Finally Pre-School provides children with the opportunity to delve into play. At Pre-School children are presented with a range of play opportunities to explore, discover and try out new skills in a supportive environment. There can be no doubt that social, emotional and cognitive skills are enhanced through play. Play experiences which begin in Pre-School and continue in the home enhance both the learning and understanding of the child.