Funded pre-school education

Funded pre-school education is available in nursery schools, primary schools with nursery classes and some voluntary and private pre-school playgroup settings and day nurseries. It provides a rich variety of challenging play activities and other experiences in a stimulating environment and will help prepare your child for primary school.

Who can apply?

The pre-school education programme is targeted at children in the year immediately before they enter Primary One. For September 2017, that means children who reach their third birthday on or before 1 July 2017. All parents of children who will be entering their immediate pre-school year in September 2017 are encouraged to apply.

Pre-school education is a phase of education that is not compulsory. Whilst it is a Government commitment to make sure that at least one year of pre-school education is available to every family that wants it, there is no guarantee that a funded place will be available at your preferred pre-school provider.

When to apply

Application forms and completed forms and all required documents should have been submitted to your first preference provider before noon on 11 January 2017.

How to apply

Application forms, a guide for parents on admissions to pre-school and a search facility to find pre-schools and view their respective criteria information is available on the Education Authority (EA) website. Application forms are also available from all pre-school providers.

If a provider has enough funded places, all eligible children whose parents apply will receive them.

You should examine carefully the admissions criteria that will be used by your preferred pre-school providers incase they are oversubscribed with applications. This will help you to assess the likelihood of your child being admitted.

Priority will be given to children whose parents receive Income Support or income-based Jobseekers' Allowance, or where an award of Income Support has been converted into an Employment and Support Allowance and the Social Security Agency has confirmed that the level of benefit remains the same.

You should list at least three preferences taking account of all options, including voluntary or private providers as well as nursery schools and primary schools with nursery units, to maximise your chances of being offered a place.

You should give as much detail as possible and clearly show how you meet the admission criteria for each provider you have listed on the application form.

You must complete an application form, even if your child's name is already on a waiting list for admission.

You need to provide your child's birth certificate with your application and if you are claiming priority due to social disadvantage, you will need to take your form to your local Social Security Office to be stamped.

What happens next

The admissions process has two stages. A letter will be issued on 27 April 2017 advising if, and where, your child has been offered a place. If your child is not offered a funded place at the end of Stage 1 of the process, you should go ahead to Stage 2 where you will be asked to list further preferences and additional offers will be made.

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