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Preschools express concern over free childcare places

Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 08/08/2016. Preschools express concern over free childcare placesTags: Parenting

Childcare centres and preschools around Ireland are voicing their concerns over imminent changes which extend the free preschool year initiative under the ECCE scheme.

The main worry is that they will not be ready in time to offer more places under the scheme due to a lack of capacity and challenges in recruiting staff.

From September 2016, every child in Ireland will be eligible for a free year of pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until they start primary school as long as they are not older than five years and six months at the end of the preschool year in June

Currently, children between the age of 3 years and 2 months, and 4 years and 7 months, are eligible for a year’s free pre-school (38 weeks) through the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme.

The extention in the free preschool initiative is expecting to result in nearly a doubling of the amount of childcare places required from 67,000 to 127,000 in the coming monthes .

Speaking to The Irish Times, Teresa Heeney of Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) commented:

“It is a huge jump and it’s an enormous national policy which the Government is trying to deliver for relatively little money. There is no strategic plan to ensure there are enough places to deliver on the expansion. We warned about this last year and it is still the case."

Heeney went on to say that the new 'rolling enrolment', which allows children to enter preschool during September, January or April depending on where their birth dates fall, poses one of the biggest challenges.

“There is real uncertainty among providers over what the demand will be for those places in January or April,” she said.

“Many services cannot afford to keep places on hold for children so it remains to be seen how it will work out.”

A spokesperson for Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone also spoke to The Irish Times, noting:

“She is committed to working with providers to help tackle any challenges that arise."

According to the spokesperson, the Minister was able to increase capital funding to support over 1,000 childcare providers in order to accomodate the expansive changes.

The individual grants amount to €10,000, a cool €6.5 million in total.

The scheme is projected to be worth an average of €1,500 for parents of preschool aged children.

Read more at The Irish Times

Read more about the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) Here


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