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Latest update from OMCYA re: Free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme

From the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA)

Information Update on the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE)

Pre-school Leader Qualifications – Interim measure

During the first 2 full years of the scheme, as an interim measure the Pre-school Leader must be able to demonstrate that he or she has achieved a certification for an award in ECCE that includes significant content relating to early childhood education/early learning and child development, health and welfare and has at least 2 years experience of working in a position of responsibility with children in the 0-6 age range.  By September 2012 every Pre-school Leader must have at least a full FETAC Level 5 qualification in childcare.

Birth Dates for eligibility to ECCE

The birth dates for children to be eligible for entry to the ECCE scheme on 1 January 2010 are from 2 February 2005 to 30 June 2006.  The eligibility dates for children for entry to the ECCE scheme on 1 September 2010 are 2 February 2006 to 30 June 2007.  Please note that children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2006 are eligible for entry to ECCE in both January and September 2010 but parents must decide which free pre-school year they wish to avail of as only one free pre-school year applies.  The exemption regarding children with special needs will continue to apply, as will the exemption where the local school admission policy makes it impossible for the child to otherwise avail of the ECCE place.  (See Exemptions below)


Exemptions can be made where children are over the eligibility age requirement due to special needs or by virtue of the local national school's entry age policy requires the child commence junior infants aged over 5 years and 7 months.  Parents of children with special needs should write to the OMCYA seeking an exemption enclosing either a HSE assessment or that of a consultant (N.B. a G.P.'s note will not suffice).  The other exemption will require parents to provide a letter from the Principal of the local national school specifying their entry age policy and the enrolment of the children in their school.  Where exemptions are being sought please inform parents of these requirements and that applications for an exemption should be made as soon as possible to OMCYA for early decisions.  Otherwise ECCE payments based on an exemption not previously applied for cannot be guaranteed.  

Processing applications

Providers should return the Electronic Fund Transfer form (EFT), current tax clearance certificate, pre-school leaders qualifications and any supporting documentation relating to a 4 day service where it applies.  Contracts will issue to providers during October.

New capitation rate for higher quality services

In keeping with the commitment of the Government to increasing standards in the pre-school sector, sanction has been obtained for a higher rate of capitation in sessional playschool services where (a) all the pre-school leaders have a childcare / early years educational qualification at FETAC level 7 or 8 (i.e. degree level) and 3 years experience of working in the pre-school sector, and (b) all the pre-school assistants have the qualifications required for a pre-school leader under the general provisions of the scheme. (Full FETAC level 5)  The higher rate amounts to €75 per week (€2,850 p.a.), and applies to sessional services operating under the 38 week (and 41 week) option(s) of the scheme, although these can be co-located with a full-day 50-week service (which will not qualify for the higher rate).  

The ratios applicable generally to the ECCE scheme apply to the higher capitation rate i.e. there must be 1 leader to 1 assistant.  Each childcare worker can deliver the pre-school year at a ratio of 1 leader/assistant to 10 children.  This means that for 10 children there must be 1 leader, for 20 children there must be 1 leader and 1 assistant, for 30 children there must be 2 leaders and 1 assistant, and so on.

N.B.  To avail of the higher capitation rate, all childcare staff in a service must hold qualifications which meet the requirements set out above.  This includes childcare staff in a service which is providing a sessional playschool service to children outside of the ECCE age range.  For example, if a sessional playschool caters for forty children aged 3 to 5 years and engages four childcare staff for this purpose, two of the staff must hold a childcare/early years education qualification at level 7 or 8 and two must hold a childcare/early years eduction qualification equivalent to FETAC level 5.

Rates exemption for sessional services

The Valuation Office has agreed that, from January, ECCE funded sessional services which are funded "wholly or mainly" from Exchequer funds are exempt from commercial rates under the Act, provided they are used exclusively for educational purposes, such as ECCE.  This does not include services which are mainly funded from parental fees. 

The Valuation Office is particularly insistent that mandatory ("top-up") fees can not be levied by exempt services, and that measures must be in place to ensure compliance with this, and the role of the CCCs in ensuring compliance with the scheme was of particular importance in their decision.  Services however, who give the parents the option of the extra half hour and charge an appropriate fee can avail of the exemption.

The OMCYA will supply the Valuation Office with a schedule of services which would, from the information supplied to us, qualify for this exemption, although they will reserve the right to inspect premises to ensure the exemption has not been granted in error.

The Valuation Office also confirmed that community based childcare facilities can be considered for exemption, but this is done on a case-by-case basis.

Number of weeks/days for January 2010 ECCE scheme

The following are the levels of service required under the various options:

(a)    3 hours per day for 5 days a week over 23 weeks (111 days) during the period January to June 2010

(b)   subject to agreement, 3 hours 30 minutes per day for 4 days a week over 25 weeks (95 days) during the period January to July 2010

(c)    2 hours 15 minutes per day for 5 days a week over 34 weeks (148 days) during the period January to August 2010

(d)   subject to agreement, of 3 hours 45 minutes per day for 3 days a week over 34 weeks (89 days) during the period January to August 2010.

Contact Galway City & County Childcare Committee

at 091 752039 or email

if you have any queries about the above information

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