Monday, 19 February 2018
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Christmas and New Year 2011

Free Pre-School Places – available to all?

In the recently announced draft Programme for Government our politicians have given a commitment to ‘ensure that at least one year of pre-school education is available to every family that wants it’.

While this is a welcome development, it is unlikely to have any noticeable effect until at least September 2013.

For parents applying for a free pre-school place for the academic year starting September 2012, time is of the essence as the deadline for applications is 12 noon on January 11, 2012.

What are Free Pre-school Places?
In Northern Ireland, children are entitled to a free pre-school place of at least 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks in the year before they start primary one.
Pre-school education is not compulsory, however there is strong evidence to suggest that high quality pre-school education has extremely positive outcomes for children.

How and when do I apply?
Application forms should currently be available from the pre-school setting or directly from the Education and Library Board. The application form should be completed giving the maximum number of pre-school settings you wish your child to be considered for.
The completed application form must be returned to your first choice provider by 12 noon on January 11, 2012.

What are the criteria?
Parents of children born between July 2, 2008 and July 1, 2009 are encouraged to apply for a free pre-school place for the academic year beginning September 2012.

Pre-school settings must adhere to strict admissions criteria which will be published in the Board’s prospectus. Each provider will have its own set of criteria which may include:

•Children who will have turned four by the start of their pre-school year, i.e. July and August birthdays
•Children of parents who receive certain means-tested benefits
•Children whose application names that particular setting as first preference
•Children who have siblings who have attended the setting or where parents are employed by the setting (or in the case of some nursery units, the adjoining school)
•Children who live nearest to the setting
Parents are required to provide proof of the information given on the application form, such as the child’s address and date of birth.

Some providers may accept applications for younger children in the year before their pre-school year, but strict admissions criteria will be adhered to, giving preference to children in their final pre-school year.

Where can I access more information?
More information, application forms and pre-school prospectus are available from your local Education and Library Board:

BELB 028 9056 4080
SEELB 028 9056 6981
NEELB 028 2566 2197
SELB 028 3751 2455
WELB 028 8241 1458

Don’t forget, the closing date for completed applications is January 11, 2012.

For further information on pre-school places or any other childcare and work related issue, contact us at or on 0800 028 6538.
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