Extra funding is being made available to more pre-school providers through a reform of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Higher Capitation model to support capacity building and quality development across pre-schools. The changes will take effect from September 2016, the Minster for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly has informed me.
From September 2016 in ECCE services, Higher Capitation will be paid to individual ECCE sessions (or rooms) which are led by Early Years professionals with a relevant Level 7 qualification or higher. This changes the current model where the higher capitation rate is only paid if all sessions / rooms in the service are led by staff qualified at Level 7 or higher. This reform will allow more services to benefit from extra capitation. From September, services that have multiple ECCE rooms, but only one with a Pre-school Leader with the necessary higher capitation qualification, can avail of this higher funding for part of their service.
Approximately 38% of services participating in the ECCE Programme are currently in receipt of the Higher Capitation grant. These services meet the ECCE Higher Capitation requirements in all of their ECCE Rooms. It is expected that from September 2016 up to 50% of services will qualify. The sector has asked for this change for some time and believes that it will encourage services to expand and to further develop the quality of their service.
The reform of the Higher Capitation model is one of a number of measures being taken by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to encourage an increase in the number of ECCE places available to meet increased demand from Sept 2016. From then, all children will be eligible for free pre-school from the time they turn 3 until they start in primary school.
Children will be eligible to enter pre-school at three entry points after they turn three, September, January and April. The number of places will need to expand from 67,000 in 2015 to 127,000 by April 2017. Minister Reilly recently announced €4million in capital funding, aimed also at expanding the number of ECCE places.