ECCE at Happy StepsDepartment of Children and Youth Affairs

FREE Pre- School place ECCE Scheme

Happy Steps are delighted to participate in the ECCE Scheme.

Please contact us or drop in to see how we can meet your childcare needs. We would be delighted to chat to you on 01 651 9980 (Brayton Park) or
01 651 9567 (Ryebridge), 087 132 5921 (mobile) or email us on

What is the ECCE Scheme?

The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced with effect from January 2010.  The programme is administered by the Childcare Directorate of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with the local operation of the programme managed by the City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs).  

Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant pre-school year.  This means that children born between 2 February 2008 and 30 June 2009 (both dates inclusive) will qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2012, and children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 (both dates inclusive) will qualify in September 2013.

The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school.  To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are required to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort.  For this reason, it is necessary to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify to participate in the programme.

Both community and commercial service providers can apply to participate in the ECCE programme.  The object of the programme is to benefit children in the key developmental period by providing a free pre-school year in the year before they start primary school.

The free pre-school year is delivered on the basis of 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, 38 weeks per year.  It is not mandatory that children attend every day but, where they do not, the capitation fee will be reduced on a pro-rata basis.  

Payment under the ECCE programme is by way of capitation fees which are paid directly to the service provider.  A capitation fee is payable in respect of each eligible child enrolled in the free pre-school year, on a pro-rata basis if applicable.  A higher rate of capitation is payable in respect of certain pre-school services with more highly qualified staff. 

It is a fundamental principle of the scheme that the pre-school year is available free to parents, and all participating services are obliged to meet the costs of the free pre-school year out of the capitation fees.  Services may, however, charge parents for additional services provided, including additional hours and additional activities, provided that certain rules are followed in relation to such charges.

To find out more about the ECCE Scheme, click here





NDP - National Development Plan 2007-2013

Supported and part funded by the
Irish Government under the
National Development Plan
2007 - 2013
Winner of the All Ireland Centre of Excellence Award 2012

Winner of the All Ireland Centre of Excellence Award - Early Childhood Ireland