Guidance on how to apply for a funded pre-school place as well as information about the Department of Education run pre-school education programme.

Applying for a funded pre-school education place 2018/19

Funded pre-school education is provided under the Pre-School Education Programme. This is a programme funded by the Department of Education (DE) with the aim to provide one year of non-compulsory pre-school education to every child in their immediate pre-school year whose family want it. It provides a rich variety of challenging play-based learning activities and other experiences in a stimulating environment and will help prepare your child for primary school.

The DE Pre-School Education Programme provides funded pre-school education places; it is not free or funded childcare. Information on childcare provision is available at Family Support NI.

What age should my child be to access a pre-school education place in September 2018?

The Pre-School Education Programme for the 2018/19 school year is targeted at children born between 2 July 2014 and 1 July 2015.

When to apply for a pre-school education place?

Application forms and information about the admission criteria of every pre-school education setting are available online from the Education Authority (EA) website from 29 November 2017 and paper copies will be available from pre-school education settings shortly after this date.

Completed application forms must be submitted by noon on Wednesday 10 January 2018 and returned to the first preference setting you named on your application.

Where are pre-school education places available?

Pre-school education places are available in nursery schools, primary schools with nursery units and voluntary/private pre-school settings that have funded places. Pre-school education is not defined according to sectors so all pre-school education settings, regardless of location, are considered accessible to children from all backgrounds.

All pre-school education settings are equally valued for their contribution to the education of children, follow the same Curricular Guidance for Pre-school Education and are inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).  All ETI reports are accessible on the ETI website.

How to complete the application form

If more children apply to a setting than places available, the setting must then apply its published selection criteria. It is vital that you consider each setting’s admissions criteria when completing your application form.

You should complete only one application form, listing all the pre‑school education settings you wish your child to be considered for.

You should provide as much detail as possible on your application form and clearly demonstrate how you meet the admissions criteria for each pre-school education setting you have listed.

It may not be possible to secure a place at your first preference setting if more children apply to a setting than the places available. It is therefore important to list as many settings as possible (that you are willing to send your child to) on your application form.

For important information for parents applying for pre-school places please see - Advice for parents when applying for a pre school place.

What happens if my child is not offered a place?

The Pre-School Education Programme has a two-stage admissions process. At Stage One, parents are asked to express preferences for pre-school education settings. If your child is not offered a place at Stage One of the process, at Stage Two the Education Authority will invite you to list further preferences for remaining places. This will maximise your chances of securing the offer of a funded pre-school education place with one of the remaining settings.

DE aims to provide a pre-school education place for every target age child (i.e. children in their immediate pre-school year) whose parents want it. Last year 99.9% of target age children whose parents fully engaged with the admissions process were offered a funded place in a pre-school education setting of their preference.

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