I am conscious of the value of supporting the provision of services in the Irish language to children at an early age, and of the role pre-schools can play in promoting Irish as a living language.
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. It is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range, providing children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school.
A Naíonra is a playgroup run through Irish for children (aged 3-5 years), who attend daily for 2-3 hours, under the guidance and supervision of a Stiúrthóir (Leader). As of July 2019, Pobal confirmed that there are 243 childcare services that identify as Naíonraí on the PIP system. Of these 243 services, 236 provide ECCE services. Since the start of the current programme year a total of 7,515 children have registered for ECCE at these services.
My Department has collaborated with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in agreeing a comprehensive set of actions under the 5 Year Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2022. The aim of these actions is to build on existing measures, supports and partnerships in the area of Irish-medium early years education and further improve supports and services.
These actions include the provision of information and supports on childcare to parents who are raising their children through Irish, the creation of two Irish language posts within my Department, and the establishment of a baseline of supports for naíonraí that will inform future policy plans on how best to support and facilitate those early learning and care facilities wishing to provide their service through Irish.