The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range.
A child must have reached 2 years and 8 months of age on or prior to 31 August of the relevant programme year to be eligible for the September start date and a child cannot turn 5 years and 6 months of age during the course of the ECCE programme year.
Exemptions for the age requirements for the ECCE programme provided by my Department are considered with regard to three guiding principles:
- That the child will be attending school or will be registered with Tusla as being educated in a place other than a recognised school by the time they turn 6.
- That a specialist has recommended the additional time in ECCE; and
- That the child has not already availed of the full two years of ECCE.
If the child referred to remained in ECCE for an additional year he would be over 6 years of age, therefore the application was not approved. It is important to note that the overage exemption cannot provide a waiver for the statutory obligations on parents with regard to educational provision when the child turns 6.
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.
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 the supports that are available for their child in a primary school setting.