Early childhood education refers to education before the start of formal schooling or before the age of six which is the age at which children are required by Irish law to start their education. In Ireland early childhood education is generally understood to include infant classes in primary schools. The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides free early childhood care and education for all children regardless, of family income or ability to pay. As a result of additional funding provided in Budget 2016, children can now start in free pre-school when they reach age 3 and to remain in free pre-school until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are not older than 5 years 6 months at the end of the pre-school year).To make sure that children can benefit from free pre-school as soon as they are eligible, parents will be able to enrol their children at three different points during the year: September, January and April.
What Supports are Available for your Child?
Since September 2016 all preschool children will have two years of ECCE. The State supports early intervention for children with special educational needs through providing funding to a number of crèche/pre-school settings including:
• early intervention settings attached to mainstream and special schools
• early intervention settings attached to HSE funded service providers
• private pre-school settings supported by the ECCE scheme
• private pre-school settings supported by HSE grant aid
Your child can access one or more of the above mentioned early intervention settings where you meet the eligibility criteria for support and if the service is available in your area.
The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) to support children with disabilities to access preschool has seven levels of support ranging from universal to more specialised supports such as equipment, adaptations and in class supports. Preschools will apply with your assistance/permission for the necessary supports for your child to attend preschool. For more information see www.preschoolaccess.ie
Children who are deaf/hard of hearing or have a serious visual impairment are generally referred to specialist visual impairment and audiology services at an early age. From there they are referred to the Visiting Teacher Service of the Department of Education and Skills.
The service provided by the Visiting Teachers includes:
• guidance, support and specialist teaching to pre-school children and their parents in the home
• specialist teaching, support and monitoring in schools
• guidance to parents and teachers on developing communication skills
• advice regarding the development of Braille skills
• advice to parents and teachers on the use of assistive technology, including soundfield systems, FM systems, adaptive technology, low vision aids
• liaising with parents, teachers and professionals including audiologists, speech and language therapists, SENOs, cochlear implant team.