Parents can still apply for place on free preschool scheme

Scheme to be expanded to two years from September reducing need to put off enrolment.

Parents who put off sending their children to preschool in September have been offered a chance to enrol them now – provided they can find a place.

Under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, parents have been entitled to one year’s free preschool for their before enrolling in primary school. Children were eligible to take up their place last month provided they were aged between three years and two months and four years and seven months.

However, pressure on primary school places in many parts of the State saw many children fail to secure a school despite being old enough for enrolment.

That forced parents to find alternative arrangements for their children after their free preschool year. To avoid this, many parents choose not to take the free preschool place until the child is four, and virtually guaranteed to move directly into primary school.

The announcement by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin that the scheme was being expanded from September 2016 to accommodate all children between the ages of three and 5½ means parents will no longer be rationed to one year of free provision.
And the Department of Children and Youth Affairs clarified on Thursday that, with provision promised for next year, children eligible for a free year in 2015/16 – those born between February 2nd, 2011 and June 30th, 2012 – can apply for late enrolment to the ECCE scheme this year, provided parents can find a vacant place in a local preschool.

Early Childhood Ireland, which represents the industry, says that there is currently some spare capacity in certain parts of the State.

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