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Pre-school Education


Early Years Education in Ireland covers the period from birth to six years.  The provision of early childhood education services range from regulated infant classes in primary schools to unregulated private childminders who mind less than 3 children.

Many children enrol in pre-school prior to the age of five, with private Montessori schooling gaining in popularity in recent years.  There are also a number of special schools for children of travellers, inner city children and children with special needs.

The Early Start programme is a one-year preventative intervention scheme offered in selected schools in designated disadvantaged areas in Ireland.  Further information is available on – Early Start Programme

Most children will then move on to Primary school at about five years of age.  The lower age of enrolment is four and the upper is six.  This compares with an entry age between four and seven throughout European Union countries.

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Funded pre-school education in Northern Ireland is available in statutory nursery settings and in those voluntary playgroups and private day nurseries participating in the Pre-School Education Expansion Programme.  Pre-school places are allocated to children on the basis of a school’s (or playgroup’s) admissions criteria, combined with the parents’ stated order of preference for the setting they wish their child to attend. However, both statutory and voluntary sector providers are required to give priority in their admissions criteria to children from socially disadvantaged circumstances – who, research shows, benefit most from pre-school education – and to the oldest 4-year olds (those with July and August birthdays).

Pre-school education is a non-compulsory phase of education which is designed for children who are in the year immediately before they enter Primary 1.  Most pre-school places are available on a part-time basis (at least 2 ½ hours per day) however some nursery schools and classes may offer full-time places (around 4 hours, with lunch available).  Please visit – – Pre-school education

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