The development of the ECCE sector in Ireland has been gradual and in the past decade state contribution has considerable increased. The Early Childhood Care & Education Scheme is a Government funded enterprise that provides one free pre-school year to every child in Ireland between 3-5 years.
The main drive behind the development of the ECCE was the booming economy, this placed increased demands on the employment market and it became essential to encourage women to return to the workforce. Coupled with a heightened awareness of how critical early childhood experiences are, not just to children but also to the society in which they will grow up and become adults. Recognising this as a time for intervention to combat social exclusion, poverty and educational disadvantages, the connection between care and education was recognised and this brought about a wide range of policy proposals, Equality Agenda and Barcelona Targets; Ireland's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, this became a vital initiative and has set the foundation for all subsequent developments in the ECCE sector. The regulations under the Childcare Act – Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (Amendment) 1997 – were the first of their kind and were collectively welcomed by the ECCE sector, with all these viewpoints the momentum for developing services for young children and their families was underway. Since 1998 the following documents have been published, Strengthening Families for Life: Report of the Commission on the Family (Dept of Social and Family Affairs) 1998. The Report of National Forum for Early Childhood Education (Dept of Education and Science) 1998. The National Childcare Strategy Report of the Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Childcare (Dept of Justice, Equality and Law Reform) 1999. The Ready to Learn, White Paper on Early Childhood Education (Dept of Education and Science) 1999. Our Children Their Lives, the National Children’s Strategy (Dept of Health and Children) 2000. These reports and white papers have served to bring Early Childhood Care and Education into the mainstream of policy making.
2) Current ECCE Provision.
The State pays a capitation fee to participating playschools and daycare services. In return, they provide a pre-school service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks.
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 primary 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.
In general, each eligible child is entitled to one free pre-school year. Certain children with special needs may avail of a pro-rata provision over two years, provided they fulfill certain conditions.
The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Scheme is a scheme for community based childcare services to provide quality childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged parents. The CCS Scheme operates as part of the National Childcare Investment Programme, which is administered by the Childcare Directorate of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Childcare services participating in the scheme are required to provide a quality service and administer the CCS tiered fee system, with maximum and minimum fees set at appropriate levels. By doing this, childcare services will be subsidised to enable reduced fees to...