Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

The Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) programme is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range.

It provides children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school. The programme is provided for three hours per day, five days per week over 38 weeks per year and the programme year runs from September to June each year.

There is one point of entry at the beginning of the programme year. The programme will be available to all children who have turned 2 years and 8 months of age before August 31st as long they won’t turn 5 years and 6 months of age on or before June 30th of the programme year.

Childcare services taking part in the ECCE programme must provide an appropriate pre-school educational programme which adheres to the principles of Síolta, the national framework for early years care and education.

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

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.

ECCE Programme Rules 2022-2023 -English

ECCE Programme Rules 2022-2023 – Irish

Eligibility for ECCE

The programme is available to all children from the September after the child has turned 2 years and 8 months.

This table shows the eligibility for ECCE by year of birth.

Birth date between ECCE start date ECCE end date
1st January 2018 – 31st December 2018 1st September 2021 + 1st September 2022 June 2023
1st January 2019 – 31st December 2019 1st September 2022 + 1st September 2023 June 2024
1st January 2020 – 31st December 2020 1st September 2023 + 1st September 2024 June 2025
1st January 2021 – 31st December 2021 1st September 2024 + 1st September 2025 June 2026
1st January 2022 – 31st December 2022 1st September 2025 + 1st September 2026 June 2027

Further Information for Parents

A guide for parents to the Pre-School year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme is available. Click the download now button below to download a copy

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