Not too late to enrol free preschool year at your local childcare service

If you have decided to send your child to national school in September 2013 and they have not taken up their Free Preschool Year place it is not too late. You can enrol your child at any stage.

If you have decided to send your child to national school in September 2013 and they have not taken up their Free Preschool Year place it is not too late. You can enrol your child at any stage.

The ECCE programme is open to all children aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1st September each year.

To avail of the programme at any stage during the pre-school year commencing in September 2012, children must have been born between 2nd February 2008 and 30th June 2009 (both dates inclusive).

The ECCE programme is designed to give children access to a free pre-school year of appropriate programme-based activities in the year before they start national school.

Participation in a pre-school programme provides children with their first formal experience of early learning, the starting-point of their educational and social development outside the home.

Children who avail of pre-school are more likely to be ready for school and a formal learning and social environment.

Children will normally receive pre-school year sessions for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, over 38 weeks (September to June). The weekly capitation fee for these sessions is €62.50. If you choose to enrol your child for fewer than 5 days per week, the capitation fee payable to the provider will be reduced on a pro-rata basis.

Services participating in the programme must provide the pre-school year free to parents. However, a service may charge parents for additional services as long as (a) the services are provided on an optional basis and (b) appropriate programme-based activities are provided to any children not participating in an optional activity.

Optional additional services can take the form of various activities or services such as outings, specific teaching resources such as dance or music, and food, but should not include activities which would generally be regarded as a normal part of a pre-school service, e.g. general arts and crafts activities.

Services may also charge for any additional hours outside of the free pre-school provision. Additional services or additional hours must be offered to parents on a purely optional basis and take-up of these options must not be a condition (real or implied) of enrolment in the pre-school service.

ECCE services will be implementing Síolta and Aistear which are the National Frameworks for Early Learning which support services for children aged from birth to 6 years.

For a full list of childcare services in your area, tips on choosing childcare or information on the National Frameworks for Early Learning please contact Longford County Childcare Committee on 043 3342505. For more information visit www.dcya.gov.ie or www.longfordchildcare.ie