Frequently Asked Questions

National Parents Council Early Years

Frequently Asked Questions

Call the NPC Helpline 01 887 4477
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Questions you may have about your child's Early Years education

We may add to this list of Frequently Asked Questions throughout the year.  If you have a question which is not on this list or you require further information on any answers, then please get in touch with our Helpline Officers or Early Years Services Manager who will be happy to take your call or email.  

The Helpline can be contacted from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm Tel: 01 887 4477 or email:

Our Early Year's Services Manager can be contacted on 01 887 4471 or email:

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

The ECCE scheme is a scheme that provides all children with two years free pre-school care and education before they start primary school.

What age is my child eligible to take part in the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE)?

From September 2018, children can start the ECCE Scheme once they have reached 2 years and 8 months of age by 31st August. If your child reaches this age after this date, then your child’s enrolment on the scheme will take place on the following September. All Children are eligible for 2 ECCE years of free pre-school (September to June, 38 weeks per year). All children availing of the ECCE scheme must not have reached the age of five years and 6 months during his or her enrolment (September to June).

Are there any exceptions to the age that children can be enrolled on the ECCE Scheme?

Yes, if your child has special educational needs then you can apply for what is known as an overage exemption to the ECCE scheme. This means that in individual cases some children may be allowed to stay on the ECCE scheme past 5 years and 6 months.   However, this does not change the legal requirement for your child to attend school once they have reached the age of 6 years old.  There are no exemptions to the lower age limit. If you have any questions about this, please contact our Helpline service Tel: 01 8874477 or email: 

Please see further details on 

How many hours per day of free pre-school can my child avail of?

In most cases it is 3 hours per day, 5 days per week.  These can be morning or afternoon sessions

How many weeks of free pre-school will my child be eligible to?

From September 2018 a child will be eligible to 76 weeks (two programme years) of free pre-school. Parents may decide to use less than this for various reasons, for example, if they wish to send their child to school at 4 rather than 5 years of age. When you join a pre-school, they will give you a calendar with the opening and closure dates for the year.  You can only attend the free pre-school scheme on the dates provided by the pre-school, and your child must have completed pre-school by the time they have reached 5 years and 6 months old unless you have been granted an overage exemption.

Can my child attend a pre-school for extra hours?

Yes if the pre-school your child attends offers this service.  It is important to note that there will be a charge for extra hours which must be paid to the pre-school. The cost of addition hours in a pre-school can vary from pre-school to pre-school.  You should be given a fee list where any extra costs are explained. You must not be charged for the free pre-school hours.

Can the pre-school provider give preference of a pre-school place to a child taking a part-time or full-time space over a child who only requires 3 hours free pre-school?

Yes, A full or part-time provider may choose to prioritise a free pre-school place for a child who will be using a full-time or part-time place over a child who wishes only to avail of the free pre-school.

Do I have to stay in the same pre-school for the two programme years?

No, you can change pre-school provided there are spaces available in the pre-school of your choice. Choosing a pre-school is the parents’ choice.

Can my child still benefit from free pre-school, if I don’t want my child to go to pre-school five days per week?

Yes. Your child doesn’t have to attend for five days per week to avail of free preschool, but your pre-school provider must agree to take your child on a part-time basis. It’s important to note for example that if your child enrols for three days per week, the pre-school provider will only be paid by Government for the days the child attends. The preschool provider may decide that this arrangement may not be financially doable for them, as they may not be able to find a child to take the place for the remaining two days a week.

Does my child have to go to pre-school once I register with the pre-school for the ECCE scheme?

No, it is your choice as a parent if you wish to send your child to pre-school.  However, it is important to note that the pre-school will lose funding for your child if they are absent for more than 4 weeks and your child will be taken from the ECCE scheme, meaning that your child could lose their pre-school place.  In exceptional circumstances your pre-school can apply for an extension of this 4-week period up to a maximum of 6 weeks for example if your child is unwell. Therefore, it is important that talk to the pre-school manager or owner and inform them of any days that your child will miss.

I registered my child in a pre-school for the ECCE scheme but decided not to start them, can I reapply?

Yes, you can reapply at any time, but you will have to repeat the registration process of providing your child’s Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) and completing registration forms. Although all parents have a right to register their children with the ECCE scheme, this does not automatically provide you with a pre-school place. If your child leaves the pre-school and you decide you would like them to return to the ECCE scheme, you will not automatically be entitled to the same place in the same pre-school.

Can I change pre-school mid-year?

Yes, if you want to change pre-school at any time you can.  You must provide 4 weeks written notice to the provider informing them of your intent to leave. Your child does not have to attend for the pre-school for these 4 weeks, however you will not be entitled to a free pre-school place until the 4 weeks’ notice period has passed.  

Can my child attend 2 different services?

To achieve the best outcomes for the child, it would be recommended that children only attend one pre-school at a time to support the continuity of care and the development of relationships between the pre-school, children and their families. However, a child’s ECCE place can be split between two services in exceptional cases such as, where there is a joint custody arrangement, and, because of this, it is not possible for the child to attend the same service each day. Or in cases where a child has special educational needs and it has been recommended by a specialist that the ECCE place be split between a specialist and mainstream pre-school on the grounds that this is in the interest of the child.

Please Contact your local Childcare Committee if you would like further information on individual circumstances, contact details of each County Childcare Committee can be found here:

If you have any questions about this, please contact our Helpline Services details can be found on or website

How much will I be expected to contribute towards my child’s participation in the scheme?

There is no charge to parents for the pre-school hours provided under the ECCE scheme. You will have to make payments however for any extra hours your child attends if your pre-school offers this choice. Note that a service may charge parents for optional extra activities, such as additional classes or activities such as dance classes, trips outside of the pre-school, cookery, swimming etc.  If any of these activities take place during a normal ECCE day, other equally enjoyable activities must also be provided for children if parents do not wish to sign up for optional activities.   No optional activity should take place in such a way that would leave children feeling left out.  For example, colouring, while other children around them are baking.

Arts and crafts materials should not be included as an optional extra as they are seen as a normal pre-school activity.All parents should be given a fees list when they start their child in the pre-school, where any extra costs such as the ones listed here must be noted. Parents must be given 4 weeks’ notice of any changes to this fees list. 

Please contact our helpline for any further information Tel: 01 887 4477 or email: 

Are the service providers allowed to collect booking deposits?

Yes. The pre-school provider may ask you for a booking deposit to hold a place in the pre-school for your child. The maximum deposit a pre-school provider may charge is equivalent to four weeks’ ECCE payment. Booking deposits are refundable and must be repaid to you by the end of October of the year your child starts pre-school. Please contact our helpline for further information, contact details can be found at the bottom of the page.

Does every pre-school charge the same booking deposit?

No, booking deposits can vary from pre-school to pre-school. However, there is a limit on how much you can be charged for a deposit which is linked to the State funding of the pre-school.

 For more information on this you can contact our Helpline Tel: 01 887 4477 or email: or your local childcare committee.

Contact details for each Childcare Committee can be found here

What is the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM)?

This Model is designed to ensure that children with any additional needs or disabilities can have access and full participation in the ECCE programme. It is a child-centred model, which involves seven levels of progressive support, based on the needs of the child.

More information can be found on our Early Years Special Education section or at

Does every pre-school teacher have the same qualification?

No, there are many different qualifications, which can come from a variety of colleges/ universities and training providers across Ireland and Europe.  However there  is a requirement in the ECCE  scheme that all staff who work directly with children must have a minimum of Level 5 in Early Childhood Care and Education on the Quality & Qualifications Ireland scale (QQI) or equivalent.  There is  also a requirement that the Pre-school Leader of each group( a staff member responsible for a group of ECCE pre-school children in a pre-school) must hold a Level 6 or equivalent. Qualifications of staff in pre-schools can range from level 5 QQI upwards to degree level and above.

Do Pre-school teachers all have the same titles?

No, in pre-schools in Ireland there is no national agreed upon name for a pre-school teacher.  The titles of pre-school teachers are not linked to qualifications, status or experience.  What pre-school teachers call themselves is usually a personal choice of the individual staff member, pre-school manager or owner.

Do pre-school teachers have different roles and responsibilities in a pre-school?

All pre-schools must have a Manager who is in charge and responsible for the day to day running of the pre-school at all times.  Managers can also take on additional roles in the service such as a Room Leader provided they are qualified to do so.  When the Manager is not in the pre-school the responsibility of the day to day running of the service must be passed on to another member of staff.

In addition to this each ECCE Scheme pre-school group must have a Room Leader who is responsible for the running of the pre-school class, the Room Leader must hold a Level 6 QQI qualification or equivalent. 

In addition to any role in the pre-school, pre-school teachers can now also become Inclusion Coordinators by completing a Special award called the Leadership for Inclusion Programme, which is also known as LINC.

Do Pre-schools have specially qualified staff to support children with special educational needs?

Yes. The Leadership for Inclusion Programme or LINC Programme qualification was introduced to pre-school teachers in 2016. This is a yearlong part time course where pre-school teachers learn about the inclusion of all children and families in pre-schools. Once a pre-school teacher has graduated from the programme they have the opportunity to take on the role of Inclusion Coordinator within the pre-school. You can ask your pre-school manager if there is an Inclusion Coordinator in your pre-school.

For more information on how this role can support children in a pre-school.please follow the link below. It is important to note that this role is different to that of a Special Needs Assistant

Are the routines and activities in pre-schools all the same?

No, Pre-schools have a variety of educational methods. What is important is that unstructured play is part of the daily routine and each pre-school works within Siolta: the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework.  You can find out more about Siolta and Aistear in the following links:

You can contact our Helpline Tel: 01 887 4477 or email:

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