ECCE Information for Parents

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.

Is my child eligible for the ECCE Programme?

Currently children aged between 3 years and 2 months and 4 years and 7 months by the 1st September can participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme for one pre-school year of up to 38 weeks.

To check your childs eligibility please click on the calendar below:

  • The expanded programme does not start until September 2016.  Until then, only children born between 2nd February 2011 and 30th June 2012 are eligible to join the ECCE Programme 2015-2016.
  • Children who are attending the ECCE year in 2015-2016 who will not be older than 5½ yrs old by the end of the 2017 pre-school year (30th June 2017) are also eligible to participate in the 2016-2017 ECCE programme
    (i.e. children who are born between 1st Jan 2012 and 3oth June 2012).
  •  There is no exemption to the upper age limit of 5½ years by the 30th Juneof the ECCE year in which the child is participating.  Please note children who have a disability are exempt from the upper age limit.

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? 
A list of current ECCE services is available on Search Childcare page.



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

Can I use a Childminder instead?
Yes, Childminders who meet the general requirements can apply to provide the ECCE programme.

Childminders 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 Childminder and interested in finding out more please contact your local CCC.