Parents can now apply for a pre-school place for the 2016/17 academic year.
Application forms are available from all pre-school providers and should be returned by 12 noon on Wednesday 13 January 2016.
Last year, 85% of children were placed in their first preference setting, while 99.8% of children whose parents engaged fully with the admissions process to the end, were allocated a funded pre-school place.
Commenting on the value of pre-school education, Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “Research consistently confirms the importance of pre-school education. The early years of a child’s life are a time of significant physical and mental development and involving them in a pre-school environment can enrich that development not only in learning terms, but also socially and behaviourally.
“While pre-school is not a compulsory element of education, I would strongly encourage parents to take up this opportunity to apply for a pre-school place and enable their children to benefit from what many parents recognise is a valuable experience.”
The Pre-School Education Programme funded by the Department of Education provides one year of education for children in their immediate pre-school year. Like primary and post primary schools, pre-school settings publish admissions criteria which parents should read carefully as they consider pre-school settings and assess their likelihood of being offered a place.
The admissions process covers entry to statutory settings such as nursery schools and primary schools with nursery units, as well as non-statutory settings delivered by voluntary and private providers. All settings follow the same curricular guidance and parents should therefore consider all providers in their area when applying for a pre-school place. The process is in two stages and if a child is not offered a place at the end of stage one, 15 April 2016, parents are notified and encouraged to submit further preferences for stage two when additional offers will be made.
Speaking about the application process, Minister O’Dowd continued: “I would urge parents, to list all settings they believe are suitable for their child. Every pre-school setting that is funded by the Department, regardless of how it is managed, has been accredited and delivers the same curriculum. All are subject to inspection by pre-school education experts from the Education and Training Inspectorate.
“Only through the official process are pre-school providers allowed to enrol children, so parents should ensure they complete an official form, even if they believe their child is on an informal list with a provider.”
Advice and support for parents making an application is available from the Education Authority. There is also information available on nidirect – Funded Pre-school Education