Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has called on Minister Katherine Zappone to address the anomaly between the upper age limit for children on the ECCE programme and the age by which children must start primary school.

The Minister implemented changes to the Over Age Exemption in the free pre-school programme earlier this year, but parents of children with additional needs are worried that they will not be given enough time to help their kids prepare for primary school.

Deputy Rabbitte explained, “Earlier this year, the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs arbitrarily decided that children must complete their ECCE participation by the time that they are 5 years and 6 months old, which depending on the month in which children are born, could see them start school before the age of five rather than before the age of six.

“This has become a major concern source of concern for parents of children with additional needs, as they are worried that their kids will not have enough time to prepare for the transition to primary school.  Previously, the Department of Children had allowed these children more flexibility in their ECCE enrolment so that they would be nearer to six when they were starting primary school.

“This was termed an overage exemption and gave children who needed it extra time to develop, access additional supports. They could then enter school when they were ready.

“By abolishing this arrangement, the Department is effectively dictating when children are enrolled in the ECCE and removing any additional developmental time from children who need it. I am calling on the Minister to restore the ECCE overage exemption and allow parents to choose what is best for their children,” concluded Rabbitte.

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