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Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme

Galway Childcare Providers are preparing to offer parents a free pre-school year from next January 2010, when children will be entitled to free attendance for one year in participating pre-schools.

The Galway City & County Childcare Committee (GCCCC) will be working closely with participating local pre-schools to implement the new Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, as announced by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA)  in the national budget last April. The scheme is expected to benefit some 70,000 children nationally.

Mary Giblin, Co-Ordinator of the GCCCC said, “The OMCYA has made funding available to pre-school services so that parents can have access to free pre-school education. This is the first time in Ireland that such a scheme is available and we at the GCCCC are very proud to be involved in such an historic initiative.”

The GCCCC is holding Information Evenings in early June to explain the detail of the ECCE scheme to local providers, who are also awaiting information packs from the OMCYA, due at the end of May.

Childcare Services may participate in the scheme on the basis of a number of options, ranging from children in a sessional service receiving 3 free hours a day to children in full-time care receiving 2 hours 15 minutes per day for free. Services participating in the scheme may charge parents for optional additions but, in all cases, participating services must operate the relevant pre-school provision free to parents.

While some of the details of the Scheme may be amended over the coming weeks, the following are some of the terms and conditions which will apply to pre-school services wishing to participate in the free Pre-School Year in ECCE scheme:

o    Services must be notified to the HSE as a pre-school service and have a satisfactory level of compliance with the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006.
o    Services will generally be required to have a minimum enrolment of 8 children in their pre-school year, with some exceptions. Notified childminders in this case must have an enrolment of at least 5 pre-school children. 
o    Services must be trading as either a sole trader, a partnership or a limited liability company and must provide an up to date Tax Clearance Certificate.
o    Services must agree to provide an appropriate educational programme for children in their pre-school year, which adheres to the principles of Síolta, the national framework for early years care and education. Services will be supported in meeting this requirement through the assistance of Síolta Co-ordinators, funded for this purpose, and by the GCCCC.
o    The pre-school year Leader should have a qualification in early childhood care and education at level 5 in the National Framework of Qualifications.

The GCCCC will be expecting applications in early June and mid-July. The OMCYA will be in contact with applicants regarding contractual arrangements and it is hoped to finalise all applications by end September 2009. The GCCCC expect to have details of participating services by early October 2009 and will provide a contact point for parents wishing to obtain information on enrolments.  Parents can then contact services in their area to secure an enrolment.

For further information, please contact the Galway City & County Childcare Committee at 091 752039 or email: mail@galwaychildcare.com.

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