The ECCE programme provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children. Approximately 68,000 children are availing of the ECCE programme in the current school year. Children are eligible to avail of the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. Children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 will qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2013 and children born between 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011 will qualify for the programme in September 2014.
Therefore, children born in July 2010 are below the age range for eligibility for the programme in the school year 2013/14, but will qualify in the school year 2014/15. As it is not in the best interests of children to enter the programme early, there is no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age. The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are expected to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. For this reason, it is appropriate to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify.