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Free Pre-school in Ireland - ECCE -Free Government Scheme

Updated on August 20, 2012

What is the ECCE scheme?

The ECCE scheme stands for Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme which was initially announced in Ireland during April 2009. It replaced several other schemes including one where every parent with children under the age of six got 1000 euro towards childcare. The scheme began in January 2010 with an initial phasing in period. Thee was mixed reaction from families and from childcare providers as the guidelines for the scheme were very strictly laid out.

Initially there was a panic that there may not be enough provision for all of the Pre-school children who wished to avail of places, however this did not emerge. In some areas there was the opportunity for new business due to the demand for places.

Can My Child Avail of the ECCE Scheme?

It is the right of all children living in Ireland to avail of the Free Pre-school Scheme for one year before school. To Qualify for the ECCE scheme your child must be between 3 years and 3 months and 4 years and 6 months on the year that you wish to enroll them. To find out about Pre-schools in your local area you can contact your local Childcare Committee or a number of other voluntary agencies such as the National Childrens Nurseries Association (see or the Irish Pre-school Playgroup Association ( It remains the choice of the parent whether or not they wish to avail of this scheme or keep their child at home until they are of school going age. Some Pre-schools are very popular and may have a waiting list so it is a good idea to enquire and to book a place well in advance of your child's start date. Places are allocated on a first come first served basis.

What can i expect my child to learn at pre-school?

All Preschools participating in the free Pre-school scheme must subscribe to the National Quality Framework known as Siolta. For more information on the principles of this framework see

A new framework for early learning has also been developed and this is known as Aistear. This has been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. More information on this can be found on

These developments mean that the providers of Pre-school must now have a Qualification in order to receive funding.

Pre-school is an opportunity for early learning for your child. It does not teach your child to read or write, or to do mathematics.

Preschool will

  • teach your child the skills of pre-reading, writing
  • teach your child how to socialise and make friends
  • teach your child independence
  • develop concentration, language and confidence
  • Prepare your child for the transition from home to Primary school.

How do I choose a Pre-school for my child?

There are many different types of Pre-school services available to parents in Ireland.These include:

  • Montessori
  • Steiner
  • Full daycare
  • Playgroup
  • Naionra (Irish Language)
  • Childminder

The type that will suit you and your child best will depend on a few different things.

  • Do you need a service that also provides full daycare?
  • Would you like your child to learn Irish?
  • Do you have other children to drop off or to collect from school?
  • Are you working? Will the location be convenient for the child's carer?
  • Most importantly - Are you happy with the service you have chosen?


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