What is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education?


The ECCE programme is designed to give children access to a free pre-school year of appropriate programme-based activities in the year before they start primary school. Participation in a pre-school programme provides children with their first formal experience of early learning, the starting-point of their educational and social development outside the home. Children who avail of pre-school are more likely to be ready for school and a formal learning and social environment. In general, each eligible child is entitled to one free pre-school year.

When will my child be eligible to participate in the ECCE programme?

Childcare services participating in the programme are required to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort, and therefore it is necessary to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range for qualifying children.

From September 2016, every child in Ireland has been able to start pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until they start primary school. Children are able to enrol in pre-school at three different points in the year – September, January and April.



Are there any exceptions to the age-related eligibility rule?

There are no exceptions to the lower age limit.

Please note that under the Education and Welfare Act 2000 all children must be enrolled in a primary school by the time they reach their 6th birthday.

Children with special needs

Where a child has been assessed by the Health Service Executive, or treating consultant, as having special needs which will either delay his/her entry to primary school or make it more suitable that s/he avails of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis over two years, this will be examined on a case-by-case basis. In such cases, the child may avail of the pre-school year over two years by availing of the ECCE sessions, for example, for two days in the first year and three days in the second year, or vice versa.

Where can I enrol my child for the free pre-school year?

Contact us calling 01-5350008, 085763673 or email us on micasa@micasamontessori.ie

How is the Pre-School Year funded?

Pre-School services participating in the programme are paid a capitation fee for each qualifying child enrolled. Pre-school services are required to notify the Department of the details of each child enrolled in the programme, so you will be asked by the pre-school service in which your child is enrolled to complete a form which includes your child’s date of birth and Personal Public Service Number (PPSN). You will also be asked to provide documentary evidence of these details (a copy of the child’s birth certificate or passport, and a copy of official proof of the child’s PPSN which can taken the form of a copy of an official document or card showing the child’s name and PPSN, e.g. a Drug Payment Scheme card, a Medical Card, or a letter from the Department of Social Protection). In return, the service is required to provide an appropriate programme of activities in early childhood care and education free to parents.

How will the Pre-School Year be provided?

Children will normally receive pre-school year sessions for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, over 38 weeks (September to June).
Will parents have to pay additional charges in respect of the Pre-School Year?

Services participating in the programme must provide the pre-school year free to parents. However, a service may charge parents for additional services as long as (a) the services are provided on an optional basis and (b) appropriate programme-based activities are provided to any children not participating in an optional activity.

Optional additional services can take the form of various activities or services such as outings, specific teaching resources such as dance or music, and food, but should not include activities which would generally be regarded as a normal part of a pre-school service, e.g. general arts and crafts activities.

Services may also charge for any additional hours outside of the free pre-school provision.

Additional services or additional hours must be offered to parents on a purely optional basis and take-up of these options must not a condition (real or implied) of enrolment in the pre-school service.

City and County Childcare Committees

If you would like further information regarding the ECCE programme you should contact your local City or County Childcare Committee. Click below for contact details.

Fingal County Childcare Committee

Admission Procedures

  • Each child must be at least 3 years of age when starting at the service.
  • All children must be toilet-trained.
  • Parents seeking to secure a place for their child must complete – registration and health record forms and pay a deposit fee.
  • Completed forms must be lodged with the school prior to the child attending the service,
  • Children will be admitted on “first come first served” basis providing the fact all forms have been completed and deposit has been paid.
  • A “waiting list” will be held for any additional children who are not successful in securing a place.