The ECCE programme is a universal programme available to all children from the age of two years eight months. 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.
Childcare services taking part in the ECCE scheme provide an appropriate pre-school educational programme which adheres to the principles of Síolta and Aistear, the national frameworks for early years care and education.
Children are eligible for the ECCE Programme once they have turned 2 years 8 months of age before the 1st of September of the enrolment year.
For more information on the ECCE programme please click here.
For further information on eligibility please see our ECCE calculator below.
The free preschool programme is not affected by the National Childcare Scheme. The National Childcare Scheme will ‘wrap-around’ the free preschool programme hours, providing financial support towards the cost of childcare for the hours spent outside of preschool. This means that National Childcare Scheme subsidies can be can be used for any hours spent outside of preschool, up to the maximum hours available to you.
In all cases, the hours of subsidised care available to a family under the National Childcare Scheme are inclusive of time spent in preschool. Read more about ‘wrap-around’ care in the Frequently Asked Questions
Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)
The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to promote inclusion and to ensure that children with disabilities can meaningfully participate in the ECCE Programme in mainstream pre-school settings. AIM is a child-centred model, offering a range of tailored, practical supports based on need and does not require a formal diagnosis of disability. The AIM model provides a suite of universal and targeted supports across 7 levels.
Information can be found below regarding targeted supports which can be applied for by your service provider to support your child’s meaningful participation in the ECCE programme.
AIM Level 4
Support is delivered by a Better Start Early Years Specialist Service (EYS). The Early Years Specialists work collaboratively with parents, pre-school providers, and with other professionals to develop inclusive learning environments in pre-schools. The EYS also provides coaching and mentoring to the pre-school staff on supporting children in the ECCE programme.
AIM Level 5
This level provides specialised equipment, appliances, or capital grants towards minor building alterations to ensure a child’s meaningful participation in pre-school. This could include a hoist, hearing aid or wheelchair ramp to name a few examples.
AIM Level 7
AIM level 7 support provides additional funding to pre-schools where a child requires extra support. Providers can use this funding to either reduce the child-to-adult ratio in the pre-school room or to fund an extra staff member as a shared resource with other children in the ECCE setting. This is all centred on supporting the pre-school leader to ensure your child’s optimal participation.
Additional information is available to parents on the AIM website which can be accessed here. Alternatively, you can discuss additional supports with your pre-school provider.