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Childcare and pre-primary education in Ireland

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In Ireland, it is compulsory for children aged 6 through 16 to attend full-time education. If you move to Ireland with children younger than 6, then you may need to find a childcare solution. There are a variety of options available to parents, from pre-primary school to individual nanny care.

Pre-Primary

While children must legally be in school by age 6, many kids begin at the ages of 4 or 5 and attend junior and senior infant classes. This is known as pre-primary school. Classes usually require tuition, although they might be subsidised for approximately 15 hours per week on the Early Childhood Care Education Scheme (ECCE). You may need documents such as identity cards, birth certificates, medical cards, and proof of address to enrol your child in pre-primary classes.

 Good to know:

Most primary schools in Ireland are owned and run by a religious community, but still funded by the government.

The ECCE scheme can also be applied from the age of 3 years old to daycares, Montessori nurseries, and Irish language preschools called naíonra. There may be options for government assistance if your child has special needs.

Group daycare

If your child is too young for pre-primary, or you’d prefer they wait on formal school, then you might consider a group daycare setting. Nurseries are a full time daycare with a bit of activity structure and a schedule. Your child will most likely be in the care of multiple adults, and in the company of plenty of other children. Some nurseries adhere to a specific methodology, like Montessori. There are also Irish-immersion nurseries, called naíonra, where the day is conducted in the Irish language.

If you prefer a smaller group, childminders are people who operate a day care service for only a few children out of their homes. Often times they are also caring for children of their own. Some may also offer a pick-up and drop-off service to busy parents. They still must be registered and reviewed by the government, and adhere to ratios, but the setting itself might be less rigid. Childminders are sometimes cheaper than nurseries because they have fewer overhead operating costs, but this is not always the case.

If you only need occasional care, you may look into baby and toddler drop-in groups, which are mainly for play, but also allow for a bit of adult socialisation. Ireland also has many crèches, which tend to be in places like shopping plazas and leisure centres, and allow you a reprieve for a few hours while you take part in an adult activity.

Individual care

If you’d prefer childcare on a more on-to-one basis, a nanny or au pair could be a good option. Nannies typically come to your home, and au pairs are often live-in childcare providers. Both will often also do some housework as part of their job descriptions. This is often the most expensive type of childcare, but it can actually be cost effective if you have multiple children who need care. In this case you are acting as someone’s employer, so make sure you adhere to all of the employment and tax laws involved with this.

Even if you don’t need full time childcare, it is worth interviewing some potential one-off babysitters for the rare occasion you need help. Moving to another country often means leaving your support network, so it is good to have reliable people you can call on when necessary.

Finding care

There are many childcare websites and apps, which is a great way to start a search for care. Most of these require registration and background checks, and the carers listed will also have reviews and testimonials from past clients. Expat forums, Facebook groups, and online classified sites can also be useful. Word of mouth is often the best way, as you get a personal recommendation. Try to speak to other parents at work, play groups, parks, etc. to see who they use and trust.

Childcare reports

No matter which childcare option you choose, you will want to make sure it has undergone and passed government inspection and that all adults in contact with your child(ren) have had background checks. The Health Services Executive is the authority that carries out such checks, and reports can be found on their website.

 Useful links:

Childcare – Information child care in Ireland
My Childcare - Find child care in Ireland

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