Do you have a child starting Preschool soon?

Here is everything you need to know about the recent changes to the ECCE scheme

What do the recent changes in the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme mean? 
Free Preschool Years
The announcement last year of the extension of the free preschool year is great news for parents and children.  With effect from September 2016, every child from the age of three until they start primary school, is now eligible to attend up to 2 years of government funded preschool, depending on their date of birth. This has greatly increased access for all families, as children are now also able to enrol in the ECCE scheme at the start of each term, that is, in September, January and April which makes it much more flexible for parents. These entry points are 1st January, 1st April and 1st September of each year.
The ECCE preschool scheme can be seen as a really positive opportunity for young children as they will have a longer time in pre-school, learning through playing, meeting new friends and socialising in a group. For many children, this is an excellent introduction and will help them to be more prepared to start primary school. 
How it works: 
The examples below may assist you with in ascertaining when your child will be eligible: 
The ECCE scheme provides for a free placement of up to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks in line with the school term. The normal schedule for the free pre-school year is 3 hours per day over 38 weeks. However, children attending on a full-time/part-time schedule who are eligible for the ECCE pre-school year receive the ECCE grant deducted from their monthly fees in agreement with your childcare provider. 
Once your child is three years of age, and has joined the ECCE scheme at the relevant entry point, they can remain in the scheme until they start primary school, at either four or five years of age. In delivering the ECCE scheme to pre-school children, the crèche setting adheres to the principles of Síolta and Aistear, the national framework for early years care and education.
Universal Subsidy towards childcare costs
With effect from September 2017, all parents with a child attending a Tusla registered childcare service will receive a subsidy of up to €80 per month (€960 per annum) towards their childcare costs. The subsidy is based on a rate of 0.50 cents per hour and will be allocated pro-rata depending on the number of hours per week a child attends their childcare service. The maximum rate of €80 per month is based on 40hours of childcare per week.  The subsidy will be available to all children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and will be paid directly to the childcare provider. The childcare provider will deduct the subsidy from the parents’ childcare fees. When the child reaches three years of age he or she will avail of the ECCE Preschool scheme until they start primary school.
Encouraging a Holistic Approach
There are a number of benefits from starting your child in an early years setting, and the formative Preschool years of your child’s life are so important to their development.  Early childhood educators are trained in identifying areas where support is needed for each child and building programs and activities around these needs. Children are encouraged to be helpful and inclusive to all their classmates, while learning how to share, cooperate, and play within a safe learning environment, guided by professionals who have the children’s best interests at heart.  
Written by Dearbhala Cox Giffin- Early learning & development expert with Family Friendly HQ.
Dearbhala is Director of Childcare with Giraffe Childcare 
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