We need to regulate school-age childcare to ensure children's health, safety and welfare. I introduced regulations for the first time for this purpose in February. They will promote quality of service for children. In addition, registration with Tusla will allow school-age childcare services to take part in the national childcare scheme when it opens later this year, thus addressing the issue of affordability for parents.
While the regulations are critical for quality and affordability, I am conscious of the impact they may have on providers and I have made provisions accordingly. For example, all existing services have been given until 18 May to apply for registration. Services already registered as preschool services have been given an extended timeframe to 18 August. In addition, I have recently provided for a six-month extension of the date on which the minimum child-adult ratio will come into force. The minimum ratio of one adult to 12 children will come into force in mid-August, allowing services that have operated with a higher child-adult ratio more time to adjust.
The regulations reflect advice received from the school-age childcare standards working group which included representatives from across the sector. In developing its proposals the working group reviewed international evidence and practice. The group was reconvened in September during the drafting of the regulations for consultation specifically on the child-adult ratio. A ratio of 11:1 has been introduced for three to five year old children in the free preschool programme. I believe a 12:1 ratio for school-age children who may be as young as four years of age is appropriate. It should be recognised that in non-term time periods children may attend such services for 40 to 50 hours per week.
I emphasise that the regulations that came into force in February represent a first stage only. Public consultation is planned this summer in advance of developing a fuller set of regulations that will cover additional quality objectives.