Question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Mr. James Reilly, TD)
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on changing the eligibility criteria for the free pre-school year in order that it can be availed of by a child aged three years; if not, the reason eligibility is restricted to children aged three years and three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 9, June, 2015.
The objective of the free pre-school year provided under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. Children qualify for the free pre-school provision when they are within the qualifying age range which is 3 years and 2 months to 4 years and 7 months in the September of the relevant year. This means, for example, that children born between 2 February 2011 and 30 June 2012 will qualify in the school year commencing in September 2015. There is currently no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age.
It is likely however, that this current eligibility criteria will be considered by the Inter-Departmental Group on Future Investment in Early Years and School-Age Care and Education, which I established in February this year. This Inter-Departmental Group, which is tasked with setting out a range of options for current and future investment, will consider options to enhance affordability, options to increase the accessibility of provision and options to build the quality of provision and support the sustainability of the early years sector. The Group is expected to submit a series of recommendations to Government in June 2015.