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Preschool Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 29 June 2010

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Questions (165)

Billy Timmins


191 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (detail supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27755/10]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I have responsibility for implementing the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which was introduced in January of this year.

Children will qualify for a free pre-school year place when they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September each year. This means that children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 will qualify in September 2010. From the information provided by the Deputy, the child in question is not eligible for the scheme in September this year but will be eligible in September 2011.

The objective of the ECCE scheme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to all children in the key developmental year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year will be expected to provide appropriate age related activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. Targeting the pre-school year at a particular age cohort is clearly fundamental to the scheme and it is necessary, therefore, to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will participate in the scheme each year.

In setting the minimum and maximum age limits, account was taken of a number of factors, including the fact that the majority of children commence primary school between the ages of 4 years 6 months and 5 years 6 months. Notwithstanding this, the ECCE scheme provides for an eligibility range of almost 17 months. The upper age limit does not apply where children are developmentally delayed and would benefit from participating in the pre-school year at a later age.

As in the case of any scheme introduced, cases will arise where individuals would rather that certain conditions did not apply. However, it is necessary that the scheme is delivered within a structure which supports the best delivery of pre-school education and it is considered therefore that the age range provided for is appropriate.

Arrangements are already in place for the pre-school year which is due to commence in September 2010 and these do not provide for any amendment or reduction in the lower age for eligibility.