Origins of Pre-School Education in Northern Ireland

Brief summary of the origins of pre-school education in NI and the establishment of the Pre-School Education Programme

Early Beginnings

Pre‐school education in Northern Ireland has a history stretching back almost 100 years, to 1928.  Information on the early development of provision here has been summarised by Sheelagh Carville,  Head of Early Childhood Studies, Stranmillis, here.

Pre-School Education Expansion Programme

In 1998, there were approximately 11,100 funded pre-school education places available in Northern Ireland, which meant that only 45% of children in their immediate pre-school year could access a funded place.

In response to increasing demand from parents for pre-school provision, the Pre-School Education Expansion Programme (PSEEP) was established in April 1998 by the then Minister for Education, Tony Worthington who launched a government initiative to increase the investment in early learning in Northern Ireland – see link below. 

The PSEEP expansion phase ended in 2012, when sufficient provision had been secured to ensure a funded pre-school education place for every target aged child whose parents wanted it.  The programme (now called the Pre-School Education Programme or PSEP) is a universally available non-compulsory early education service targeted at children in their immediate pre-school year.  The PSEP has been developed and grown considerably since 1998 with approximately 23,000 children participating in the pre-school admissions process and attending funded pre-school provision each year.

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