Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme

What is the ECCE scheme?

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. The scheme is offered in early years settings (pre-schools, Montessori’s, creches, playgroups) for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, 38 weeks of the year.

All children are entitled to 2 full academic years on the ECCE scheme.

Children are eligible to start the ECCE scheme in the September of the year that they turn 3 years old. For example, a child turning 3 years old in 2019 can be registered on the ECCE scheme in September 2019.

Check your child’s ECCE eligibility on the ECCE calculator here


Eligible age range

To avail of the ECCE programme with effect from

Children must have been born between the following dates (both dates inclusive)

September 2018 – June 2019

1st January 2014 – 31st December 2015

September 2019 – June 2020

1st January 2015 – 31st December 2016

September 2020 – June 2021

1st January 2016 – 31st December 2017

September 2021 – June 2022

1st January 2017 – 31st December 2018

For a downloadable pdf version of this information please click here

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs sets the age eligibility and funds the scheme. The funding is provided directly to early years settings for children that they have registered on the ECCE scheme. Parents can contact their local County Childcare Committee with any questions they have about the ECCE scheme.


How do I find a pre-school setting?

There are almost 5000 pre-schools running the ECCE free pre-school year. You may have a recommendation from a friend or you might have an idea of the type of pre-school you want to send your child to. Here are some tips for finding a pre-school:

  • We also have outlined a number of practical steps you can take to ensure that you make the best possible choice for your child : Making the Choice

Booking your child’s free pre-school place

Most settings will have either a waiting list or an enrolment procedure. When you have made your decision, make contact with them and fill in a booking form.

A large number of settings require a booking deposit to secure the place which will be refunded once your child’s place has been verified by Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

When your child starts, the setting will ask you to complete a declaration form confirming your child’s details and this is sent to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs who will then fund your child’s place.


Getting ready for Preschool

We have developed a free guide for parents to help their child with the transition to preschool:
Going to Preschool Leaflet


Children with Additional Needs – Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school provider. AIM is designed to enable children with disabilities to access and fully participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme.

Further information is available at the Access Inclusion Model website and the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) – Information and Contact Leaflet.


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