The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides for one free pre-school year for all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. The Government has made a very significant commitment in maintaining the pre-school year on a universal and free basis despite the current budgetary situation. The universal nature of this programme is critical for childhood development by providing every child with early learning and preparation for school.
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. Services participating in the programme are required to promote age-appropriate activities and programmes. The payment made to a service is for the provision of services, including preparatory and supportive work such as engagement with parents, training and organisation.
Issues relating to workforce development, curricular support and capitation, will be considered as part of Ireland's first-ever Early Years strategy, work on which is at an advanced stage.