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Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton has welcomed the expansion of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme by Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone.

“Thanks to a major expansion of the free preschool scheme known as the ECCE, thousands of extra children across the country are going to be able to access free preschool places. All children reaching three years of age are now entitled to a free preschool place, meaning that 85,000 children are now eligible for the scheme nationwide. Previously children were entitled to one free year.”

Under the expanded ECCE Scheme eligible children will now be able to avail of preschool across two (and in some cases three) school years Previously, eligible children were only permitted to access the ECCE Scheme from the September of that preschool year, but there are now two further entry points in January and April, to facilitate additional access.

“International studies show that children who take part in early years education schemes such as the ECCE, have better outcomes later in life, particularly those children experiencing disadvantage”, noted Minister Stanton.

“In addition to the educational benefits for children, parents and families should also benefit financially from a reduction in childcare costs as it is estimated that for each place on the scheme, a family can save between €2,500 to €4,000 in childcare costs.

“Aside from access to childcare, Minister Zappone has also highlighted the need to support the childcare sector to provide a quality service. In that context I welcome that the first meeting of the National Early Childcare Forum will take place at the end of September.”