Early Childhood Care and Education

What is the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme?

The Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) is designed to give children access to a free Pre-School Year of appropriate programme-based activities in the year before they start primary school. A good quality preschool helps get your child ready for Primary School.

Information for Parents 

A guide for parents to the Pre-School year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme is available in this link  A-Parents-Guide-to-the-National-Childcare-Funding-Programmes-2018-2019

Use our ECCE Calculator to check if your child qualifies for the Free-School Year.

To download an eligibility poster, Please go to the following page ECCE Eligibility Wall Poster and click on the download link.

Children with Special Needs

Parents who wish to apply for a waiver of the upper age limit or to avail of the pre-school year on a pro-rata basis over two years, on the grounds that their child has special needs, must apply in writing to the Childcare Directorate not later than 1st July of each year.

How do I know which Pre Schools are currently in the Programme?

The following link is a list of 2018 Ecce list


The childcare provider is paid €64.50/week to provide each free place. 

Childcare Regulatory Information

For information on Child Care regulatory information from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs please follow this Link 

Can I use a Child-minder instead?

Yes, Child-minders who meet the general requirements can apply to provide the ECCE Programme. Child-minders who have the necessary qualification: Fetac Level 5 and who are notified to the HSE are able to operate the Free Preschool year. If you are a Child-minder and interested in finding out more please contact Sligo CCC.

Information for Childcare Providers

Payment under the ECCE programme is by way of capitation fees which are paid directly to the service provider. A capitation fee is payable in respect of each child enrolled in the free preschool year.

Voluntary Donation

Some childcare providers request a voluntary donation; Parents are not obliged to pay this. However, where it is requested and a parent wishes to make a voluntary donation it should be a one off payment and made anonymously, direct to the service’s bank account.

Optional Extras

Services may charge for optional extras, for example, additional activities such as trips, swimming, birthday parties etc. If you choose not to avail of the optional extras the childcare service must provide an appropriate alternative activity for your child or provide the optional activity on a non-ECCE day. Parents will have to pay for hours which are additional to the free pre-school year.

Staff Qualifications

All staff working with children in early year’s services will have to have a minimum Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework qualification in early years care and education, or an equivalent qualification by September 2015.In addition, by September 2015, Preschool Leaders delivering the free Pre-School Year programme will have to have a minimum Level qualification, or equivalent.

Tax Clearance for Providers

From 1st January 2016, Revenue will be changing their tax clearance application and verification systems.  Revenue will move to providing for real-time ongoing tax clearance (to be known as eTax Clearance).

With electronic Tax Clearance, real-time ongoing review means that an organisation’s tax clearance status will be re-assessed at different stages throughout the year and an organisation’s clearance certificate can be withdrawn if their tax affairs are not kept in order. Paper Tax Clearance Certificates will no longer be issued for a 12 month period.

Applications for eTax Clearance will be processed in real time by Revenue. Customers who are tax compliant will receive a Tax Clearance Access Number, along with their Tax Reference number from Revenue. Both these numbers must be provided to Pobal in order for Pobal to verify tax clearance and process payments to you. Tax Clearance will no longer be provided by way of a paper Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC).

From 1st January 2016, it is your organisation’s responsibility to become familiar with this new real-time ongoing tax clearance process, to ensure there are no delays for Pobal making payments to your organisation.

The new eTax Clearance system is live from Monday 7th December 2015 and applicants can apply for electronic tax clearance from Revenue from that date – please click here.

If you are a Childcare Practitioner and looking for more information on the ECCE program and Administrative Procedures, please visit your PIP Homepage. Further information is available on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website Here