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Minister Andrews Extends Enrolment Deadline for Free Pre-school Year

Sunday, 10th January 2010

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews, TD, today urged parents with children eligible for the free preschool year who have yet to register with their local preschool service or County/City Childcare Committee to do so immediately.


"There is still time to register with your local preschool provider to avail of the new free preschool year.  Children born between 2 February 2005 and 30 June 2006, an age range of almost 17 months, are eligible to participate in the Early Child Care and Education scheme.  If parents have not already enrolled their child, they should immediately contact either their local preschool service or their County/City Childcare Committee", said the Minister.

The cold snap, which has caused the closure of many primary and preschools has in all likelihood delayed the start of the ECCE scheme for most services.  Bearing this in mind, my Office will be as flexible as possible in accommodating late enrolments.  The original date for participating services to make an electronic return with the children’s details was January 22nd.  Recognising the current weather conditions, we will extend this date to January 29 th.  This, in turn, will give parents an extra week to register with service providers, which they are asked to do by January 20th.  In the event that parents are experiencing difficulty accessing a place, they should immediately contact their respective County/City Childcare Committee.

Last July the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs wrote to all parents in the specified age cohort notifying them of their entitlement and how to enrol their child.  If, for whatever reason, they did not receive the letter, they are still entitled to join the scheme, provided the child has a PPS number and falls within the age range.
 
Some participating services may be concerned that they will be financially penalised for not commencing the scheme this week.  This is not the case.  The Minister said, “we do not want parents and children taking risks because of pressures to attend preschool.  In light of this, participating preschools will be paid for the days they were forced to close because of the inclement weather.” 

Services will receive their first payment next week provided correct bank details have been supplied.  No delay in payment is expected and as such there is no justification for services charging parents for what will be a free service.

The Minister concluded by saying, “the ECCE scheme is an historic step in the journey to develop a Government supported preschool system.  The provision of a free preschool year to all children, regardless of income or circumstance, will enhance the social and educational development of our children.  It will give each child in the country an equal chance to arrive in Junior Infants with improved personal development, speech and language skills and capacity for socialisation.”


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