Dáil Éireann - Volume 663 - 14 October, 2008

Written Answers. - Educational Disadvantage.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will extend the early start programme to all designated disadvantaged schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34454/08]

  Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: The Early Start Programme, which was launched in the mid 1990s is a preschool intervention for 3 year old educationally disadvantaged children in 40 locations. The Early Start programme operates for 2.5 hours a day, 5 days a week for the duration of the school year, i.e., 183 days. Since the introduction of this programme, the White Paper on Early Childhood Education and the National Children’s Strategy 2000 set out Government policy in the area of early childhood education. The policy set out in the National Children’s Strategy aims to ensure that children’s early education and developmental needs are met through quality child care services and family-friendly employment measures. The White Paper on Early Childhood Education identified a key role for my Department in improving the quality of educational provision in child care settings. The White Paper set out the key tenet that my Department would support the growth of, rather than replace, the wide range of existing provision in the early childhood area.

State investment in early childhood education is now taking place through the National Childcare Investment Programme which is the successor programme to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme. These programmes are administered through the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. My Department’s role is to provide for quality within existing provision within the child care sector. It is not intended to extend the Early Start programme to other disadvantaged schools as it would mirror State investment in the preschool sector which is currently channelled through the National Childcare Investment Programme.