The ECCE (free pre-school) Scheme

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal programme available to all children within the eligible age range. It provides children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school. The programme is provided for three hours per day, five days per week over 38 weeks per year and the programme year runs from September to June each year.

All children are eligible for two full programme years (Sept – June) of ECCE (76 weeks in total). Children must have reached the age of 2 years and 8 months of age by August 31st of the year of entry to the programme.

Please see the following table to check when your child will be eligible for entry to the ECCE scheme.

To avail of the ECCE programme with effect fromChildren must have been born between the following dates (both dates inclusive)
September 2018 – June 20191st January 2014 – 31st December 2015
September 2019 – June 20201st January 2015 – 31st December 2016
September 2020 – June 20211st January 2016 – 31st December 2017

In order to support children with a disability to access free pre-school, a major new programme of supports, the Access and Inclusion Mode (AIM), has been introduced.

AIM is a programme of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the ECCE Programme in mainstream pre-school settings and can participate fully in the pre-school curriculum alongside their peers.

AIM is a child-centred model of supports, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting. The model is designed to be responsive to the needs of each individual child in the context of their pre-school setting.  It offers tailored, practical supports based on need and does not require a formal diagnosis of disability.

For further information on AIM and the support it provides, please visit

If you have any queries regarding the ECCE scheme, including where to find a childcare service offering the scheme in your area please contact your local City/County Childcare Committee (CCC) who will be happy to assist.

For a list of contact details for your CCC please click here.