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Early Childhood Care and Education programme explained

What is the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme?

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is designed to give children access to one free preschool year before they begin primary school. According to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, children who attend a preschool are more likely to be ready for school and a formal learning environment.

The programme is open to every child in the country, and runs for 38 weeks, five days a week, for three hours each day. Each child is entitled to one year of free education, with exceptions in some cases. Parents can choose from approximately 4,500 participating preschool services around the country. These schools are paid a capitation fee by the government for each child enrolled.

What age must my child be to take part in the ECCE programme

The ECCE programme is open 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.

Children hoping to participate in the programme in September of the current year must have been born between 1st January - 31st December of three years previous (ie. entry for September 2023 must have been born between 1st Jan - 31st Dec of 2020).

What if my child has special needs?

If your child has special needs, delaying his/her entry into primary school, it may be possible to spread the ECCE programme across two years. In these cases, children may take 2 days a week in their first year and 3 days a week in their second year, or vice versa. All children will still receive the same amount of time in total of free preschool education.

Can I move my child to a different preschool during the year?

It is possible to move your child from one preschool to another during the programme. However, you must give the preschool you are moving your child from 4 weeks notice before the move. If you fail to do this, Fees must be paid for 4 weeks in your child's new preschool, while the old one receives four weeks of ECCE payment.

How do I apply/sign up for the programme?

It is easy to sign up for the ECCE programme. Simply complete a form in the participating preschool of your choice, filling in all the necessary information. You will be required to produce documents in order to prove your child’s date of birth and confirm their PPSN. A birth certificate or passport and a drug payment scheme card or medical card will be accepted.

Contact your local City or County Childcare Committee for more information. Download contact details here:

EECU CCC Contact Details.pdf