Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Questions (500)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

500. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the fact that because there is only one intake per year for the ECCE scheme some children can only avail of one year due to their birth date; his plans to return to two intakes per year to ensure an equitable system; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43297/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

A single intake for the ECCE programme was introduced in September 2018, replacing the previous policy of two intakes per year the ECCE. When there were two intakes per year for the two year ECCE programme children would get between 61 and 88 weeks of ECCE, depending on their birthday, which was not equitable. The single entry point ensures that all children, regardless of their birthday, can have 76 weeks of ECCE. No child has been excluded from being eligible for two years of ECCE due to the change to having one entry period per year.

ECCE is not mandatory and some parents choose to enrol their children for one year of ECCE only, to delay their child starting pre-school until they are 3 and half, or to start them in school at the age of 4 rather than 5. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the parent or guardian, but is not driven by the ECCE enrolment rules.

My Department does its best to ensure, in so far as possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who take part in the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied evenly.