The ECCE programme is a universal programme available to all children between the ages of 2 years and 8 months and 5 years and 5 months. The ECCE programme consists of a 3 hour session per day, 5 days a week over 38 weeks of the year.  It generally runs alongside the primary school year calendar.  

This programme is to support children in the early years of the educational journey and to prepare them for the transition to primary school education.

The ECCE programme encompasses Aistear, the Early Years Curriculum Framework and Siolta, the National Quality Framework.  Early Years Providers who sign up to offer this programme meet qualification and training requirements to provide this programme.

Children must be 2 years and 8 months by the 31st of August of the same year they will be enrolling in the programme.

Please see the table below or use our ECCE Calculator to see when they are eligible for the programme. For further information click on the following link:


Birth date between ECCE Start Date ECCE end date
1st January 2015 – 31st December 2015  1st September 2018 + 1st September 2019 June 2020
1st January 2016 – 31st December 2016 1st September 2019 + 1st September 2020 June 2021
1st January 2017  – 31st December 2017 1st September 2020 + 1st September 2021 June 2022
1st January 2018 – 31st December 2018 1st September 2021 + 1st September 2022 June 2023
1st January 2019 – 31st December 2019 1st September 2022 + 1st September 2023 June 2024

* Children born between 1st January and 31st December 2014 will continue to be eligible for free pre-school under the terms of the ECCE expansion as announced in Budget 2016. ECCE eligibility criteria as announced under Budget 2018 will come into effect with effect from 1st September 2018.