Fine Gael Pushing For Second Year Of Free Pre-School Care

The Department of Education is being encouraged to consider introducing a second free pre-school year.

Fine Gael TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Joe O'Reilly, has said that he is working with the department to secure the introduction of an additional year of free pre-school, following a recommendation by the National Early Years Strategy that the provision be extended.

"The Minister for Children, James Reilly, is in agreement with me that the introduction of a second year would improve children's educational and developmental outcomes, as there is an increasing body of Irish and International evidence quantifying the benefits," Mr O'Reilly said.

He added: "The introduction of a second pre-school year would require considerable additional funding of approximately €175 million per year. While this money is not available at present, but I am committed to continuing to push for this change as the economy recovers.

"Despite the challenging budgetary situation, the pre-school year has been maintained by this Government ensuring that children, who otherwise would not have the opportunity, can avail of quality pre-school services. Last year 68,000 children availed of the free pre-school year provision.

"In Cavan, the County Childcare Committee which is the point of contact for parents, continues to do excellent work in providing support for those wishing to avail of the free pre-school year.

"As well as maintaining the free preschool year, Budget 2014 provided €4.5 million to improve the quality of preschool services. A Learner Fund to assist existing staff meet the new qualification requirements will be introduced in September 2015, a Quality Support Service will be established and Early Years Inspectors are being recruited. €2.5 million has also been allocated to 163 community childcare providers.

"A second free pre-school year would represent €2,500 to €3,000 worth of free childcare to parents and would be likely to generate 4,000-5,000 new jobs.

"Our young people deserve the best and as it has been shown that an extra year of pre-school positively impacts on development, this is something I am dedicated to pursuing."


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