Exemptions for the age requirements for the ECCE programme provided by my Department are considered with regard to three guiding principles:
- the child will not reach 6 years of age before beginning primary education as per the Educational Welfare Act, 2000,
- a specialist has recommended the additional time in ECCE; and
- the child has not already availed of the full two years of ECCE.
In deciding on applications for exemptions to the ECCE age requirements, my Department is guided by a review of the overage exemption process which was carried out by the National Disability Authority for my Department and the Department of Education in 2018. In their published report they concluded that it is in the best interest of children with additional needs to transition to primary school with their age cohort.
With regard to the child referred to by the Deputy, if the child remained in ECCE for an additional year she would be over 6 years of age starting primary school, and would turn 7 while in junior infants. The application to permit her to remain in ECCE for the 2021-22 programme year has been rejected.
I would encourage the parents to seek the assistance of the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) with regard to sourcing a school place and the supports that are available for their child.