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Department of Children and Youth Affairs

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Q&As Budget changes relating to Childcare and Pre-school funding

6th December 2011

Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) programme

Q:     What are the changes to the pre-school year in Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) programme?

A:     Under the programme, services are paid a capitation in respect of each child. Up to now, this has been at a weekly rate of 64.50, or 75 where the pre-school leaders hold degree level qualifications in Early Education. From next September 2012, these rates will be reduced by approximately 3%, to 62.50 and 73 respectively. This change will not take effect in the current pre-school year.

It is recognised that the largest cost for services is labour, and the Staff/Child ratios are governed by the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006. These currently require that, where children are in the ECCE age cohort, that there should be a ratio of no more than 1:10. It has been decided to increase this ratio to increase to a maximum of 1:11, from 1st September 2012. Ratios regarding the space per child will remain unchanged.

Q:     What difference will this make to the quality of the programme?

A:     While the ratio of staff to children is important, it is considered that an increase of 1 child per adult, from 10 to 11, will not have an unduly significant impact on the quality of the pre-school experience. Internationally, most countries range from ratios of 1:7 to 1:15 for this age cohort, and the majority are between 1:8 and 1:12, and Ireland is therefore within that range.

Q:     What about children in full daycare, where the ratios are different?

A:     Currently there is a different ratio for children in the ECCE age cohort in daycare, as opposed to sessional care.   For the duration of the ECCE programme session (currently 2 hours or 3 hours per day) the standard sessional ratios will apply. For the remainder of the day (i.e. the hours before and after the ECCE session) the normal ratio of 1:8 will continue to apply to children in daycare. The details of this change will be finalised in the context of the re-drafting of the Regulations.

Q:     How will this affect the income of services?

A:     Where services are in a position to accommodate additional children, their total income will rise by 6.6%. If they do not increase their child numbers and maintain their current ratios, their income will fall by between 2.7% and 3.1%.

Q:     What will happen if a service cannot attract additional children?

A:     In that case, the income of the service from the ECCE programme will fall by 2 per child per week.

Q:     What is the overall position regarding ECCE funding next year?

A:     Demographic factors mean that there is an increase of 3,000 in the number of children participating in the scheme. This requires an increase in funding for the scheme of 9.8m, even after the savings associated with the change in capitation rates. 

Q:     When these changes take effect?

 

A:     All of them will take effect from September 2012

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