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Free Pre-School year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme 


The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs recently wrote to all early years service providers advising them to ensure that all of their staff members working directly with children were fully aware of the fact that the new Child Care Regulations (which will be published shortly) will require all such staff to hold a minimum qualification of Level 5 or equivalent by 31st December 2016, and to advise that any unqualified staff members should commence training as soon as possible – availing of the Learner Fund as appropriate. Copies of the letters are here.

This letter has given rise to a number of queries from service providers.  This Q & A document aims to provide answers to the most common queries.


Budget 2016 - Childcare

Budget 2016 contains a number of important measures to improve childcare services, including an extension of free pre-school from 1 September next.  Information about the main improvements, in relation to childcare, are outlined in a Q&A on Budget 2016 document.

Budget Day 2016 - Press Release

We will be working on the exact details of the improvements as we prepare for implementation, and we will communicate these as soon as they are available.

A set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (updated 7th December 2015) in relation to ECCE are available and will be updated regularly as questions arise and further developments are announced.

We have set up an email address for your questions and we will publish our answers as soon as possible.  Please submit your queries to:


The age criteria for the current and coming pre-school year is as follows in relation to the ECCE Programme:

Guides to ECCE Programme  2015

DCYA Childcare Funding Programmes Information and Frequently Asked Questions.

Guide for Parents to the Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme


Supporting Documentation





A list of Early Years DCYA Recognised Qualifications for the purposes of meeting the minimum qualification requirement in the pending Early Years Regulations and for meeting the contractual requirements for the DCYA Childcare Funding Programmes has been published.

This list will enable employees working in the Early Years sector in Ireland to verify whether the qualifications they hold will be recognised.

This list also sets out the qualifications that will be recognised for the purposes of the DCYA Childcare Programmes, in particular, that of the qualification requirement for the room leader in the ECCE programme and for a service to receive the ECCE Higher Capitation rate.

Where a qualification is not published on the list of DCYA Early Years Recognised Qualifications but the holder considers it to be an appropriate Major Award at Level 5 on the NFQ or equivalent, the holder can apply to have their qualification assessed for approval. If it is approved for recognition the details of the qualification will be added2 to the list of DCYA Early Years Recognised Qualifications

Information in relation to the Early Years (Pre-school) Regulations and DCYA Childcare Programmes Qualification Requirements and DCYA Qualifications Recognition Application Process can be download here. (Irish version can be accessed here).

The Published list of DCYA Early Years Recognised Qualifications can be downloaded here. (Irish version can be accessed here).

The list will be converted into a searchable database in the near future and will be updated on a regular basis as other qualifications are approved.

The Application Form for Qualifications Recognition can be downloaded here. (Irish version can be accessed here).

A new Learner Fund to assist existing employees in Early Years Services to up-skill to the required minimum qualification for the purposes of the pending Regulations has also been announced. Local City and County Childcare Committees will liaise with services prior to the official launch of the Learner Fund, which will be in the near future.

ECCE Higher Capitation for Service Provider


As part of the Early Years Quality Agenda, new qualification requirements for child care workers are being introduced. All staff caring for children in an early years service will be subject to a minimum qualification requirement of Level 5 or equivalent, while pre-school leaders delivering the ECCE programme will require a Level 6 qualification.

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 capitation rate is available to services participating in the ECCE programme in which all pre-school leaders satisfy the minimum qualification requirements for the ECCE Room Leader (Higher Capitation) as approved on the published list of DCYA Early Years Recognised Qualifications and all pre-school assistants must satisfy the pending Preschool Regulations Minimum Requirement.

The ECCE Higher Capitation rate must be applied for on an annual basis.

Information in relation to the ECCE Higher Capitation Rate Criteria and Application process can be downloaded here. (Irish version can be accessed here).

The ECCE Higher Capitation Rate Application Form can be downloaded here. (Irish version can be accessed here).

ECCE Payment Schedule for September 2015 - June 2016


Contact Details:

ECCE Section,
Early Years Policies and Programmes,
Department of Children and Youth Affairs,
43-49 Mespil Road,
Dublin 4, D04 YP52
Tel: 01 6473000
Fax: 01 6473224


Sonraí Teagmhála:

An Rannóg ECCE,
Polasaithe agus Cláir na Luathbhlianta,
An Roinn Leanaí agus Gnóthaí Óige,
43-49 Bóthar Mespil,
Baile Átha Cliath 4, D04 YP52
Teil: 01 6473000
Facs: 01 6473224

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